Storm Tracker (May 20-26)

Bird - 15.0
Jackson - 15.0
Brondello - 8.0
Barnes - 6.5
Vodichkova - 6.0
Jackson - 6.0
Barnes - 4.5
Edwards - 4.5
Bird - 3.0
Brondello/Burras - 2.0
Bird - 7.5
Barnes - 2.5
Brondello - 1.5

May 19-25
Record for the week: 0-2
Overall Record: 0-2
Standing: 7th, Western Conference

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Storm 29 35 64
at Houston 43 32 75
In their opener against the Comets, the Storm picked up where it left off during preseason play - with missed shots. Houston led 10-2 before Sue Bird got going and provided the offensive spark for the Storm. Still, the Comets led big, 43-29 at the half. The Storm needed to start the second half off with a bang and did, finding an effective transition game with Bird - who handed out 10 assists - leading the break and finding the right teammate to finish. The comeback, however, sapped much of the Stormís energy and the Comets answered with a run of their own to put the game away; though the Storm wasnít entirely out of it until the closing minutes, the Comets seemingly had an answer for each Seattle score. The main reason for that was last seasonís MVP, Sheryl Swoopes, who opened her 2003 campaign with a bang. With Tina Thompson sitting out, the Comets leaned on Swoopes for offense, and she proved equal to the task, finishing with 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting, dishing five assists. 40-year-old Cynthia Cooper, returning to the WNBA after a two-year retirement, had a strong first half, scoring all 11 of her points, and ran the Comets offense, finishing with seven assists. Michelle Snow, stepping in for the injured Tiffani Johnson, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for Houston. The Storm was led by Bird, who kept the ball for her own shots enough to lead the team with 19 points and three three-pointers. Lauren Jackson had a solid effort as well, scoring 15 points on 50% shooting, while starting wings Sandy Brondello and Adia Barnes scored 10 points each.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Storm 31 25 56
at San Antonio 28 37 65
Not wanting to repeat Thursday nightís outcome, the Storm made a couple of significant changes prior to being the inaugural visitor to the SBC Center for regular-season WNBA action, as the now-Silver Stars played their first game in San Antonio. The first was trying hard to get off to a quick start, which the Storm succeeded at, leading most of the first half. The other change was to play more physically, and the result of that was 30 fouls, 35 Silver Stars free throws, and constant foul trouble. Jackson, Barnes, Alisa Burras and Kamila Vodichkova (who made her first start, replacing Burras in the starting five) all picked up three first-half fouls. The Stormís interior depth problems were exacerbated when rookie Jung Sun-Min was sidelined with an ankle injury late in the first half. With Amanda Lassiter still out because of a hyperextended knee, Coach Anne Donovan was down to just five frontcourt players before the foul trouble. Still, the Storm had a chance to pull out a victory, but saw that disappear under a flurry of missed shots. The Storm finished the game at 31.3% shooting from the field, barely over 20% in the second half as San Antonio caught and passed Seattle. Going small, the Storm was successfully able to force several turnovers with pressure and benefited from the Silver Starsí struggles at the free-throw line (20 of 35 for the night, including 3-for-8 from Jennifer Azzi, who shot 80% from the line last year), getting as close as four late. But they again went cold from the field. Though Bird and Jackson both scored double-figures, they shot a combined nine of 32, with Brondello making just two of 12 shots. Vodichkova was the offensive bright spot, putting in 11 points, but was limited to 18 minutes by foul trouble. On the San Antonio side, Marie Ferdinand was the beneficiary of many of the refereesí whistles, shooting 13 free throws and making five of eight shots to score a game-high 20 points. 7-2 Silver Stars center Margo Dydek, who fouled out as well, made five of seven shots and scored 15 points, adding eight rebounds and four blocks.

Player of the Week

G Sue Bird
15.0 ppg, 7.5 apg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 spg, 3.75 ast/to ratio

The obvious highlight of Birdís week was her season-opening outing against the Comets, scoring 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting and handing out 10 assists for only the fourth double-double of her young career. While Bird struggled to find her offensive rhythm against San Antonio and was visibly frustrated, as Storm announcer David Locke noted, she found other ways to contribute in that game, grabbing six rebounds and picking up three steals with solid pressure defense in the waning moments of the game. Overall, Birdís most impressive accomplishment might have been a fine 3.75 assist-turnover ratio. Only two WNBA regulars, former Miami guard Debbie Black and Sacramento All-Star Ticha Penicheiro, posted ratios better than 2.5 last season. Birdís 1.75 mark was 19th amongst players who played more than 200 minutes, but it could have been higher if she cut her turnovers. No WNBA player had more turnovers than Bird last season, but with a year of experience she is making even better decisions, which will allow her to improve on an already stellar rookie season.

Weekly Happenings

Bird and the Storm faced two tough defenses last week.
Offensive Offense
Playing two of the WNBAís best defenses as well as two of its best individual defenders in Swoopes, last yearís Defensive Player of the Year, and Dydek, the league leader in blocked shots the last five seasons, the Storm could have expected a slow start to the season offensively. Still, 37.4% shooting is a disappointment, and the second half of the opener against Houston was the only time the Storm really had an extended run of success on offense. At the same time, there are some encouraging signs for the Storm going forward. The most obvious is that most of the shooting struggles against San Antonio came from the teamís stars, Bird and Jackson. Taking away them and Brondello, the rest of the Storm players shot a respectable nine of 20. Obviously, Bird and Jackson are going to be just fine on offense - though Jackson is currently hampered by a strained groin suffered against Houston that kept her out of practice on Saturday - and time spent worrying about their performance is wasted. Also positive is that the Storm has out-assisted opponents despite making less field goals, indicating effective ball movement. Seattle can also help improve its offense by getting to the free-throw line more. Over the first two games of the season, opponents shot 52 free throws to the Stormís 27. At the same time, the Storm has shot more than twice as many threes, 31 to 15; some of those outside attempts might better be directed to the lane to get freebies at the line.

Still Havenít Found What Theyíre Looking For
One of the major goals of the early part of the Stormís schedule has to be finding a consistent third scorer to complement Bird and Jackson, whether it be Vodichkova - who filled the role last year - an improved Barnes, or one of the imports, Brondello and Burras. While three of the four players scored double-figures in one of the games or the other, Brondelloís 8.0 ppg average was the best over the two games combined, and the Storm will need more production from a third option to contend in the Western Conference. Brondello, who struggled with a hamstring injury late in training camp, is still looking for her shot after shooting just 29.2% on the road trip. Barnes had an impressive performance against Houston, doubling her 2002 total with a pair of three-pointers, but foul trouble kept her from carrying that momentum over against San Antonio. Vodichkova stepped up despite foul trouble in her first start, and getting her up to speed in the new Donovan system - five days off should help - should provide a real boost to the Storm. Burras has been unimpressive in her first two games with the Storm, averaging as many turnovers (2.0) as rebounds and points.

Roster Machinations
Last Wednesday was cut day in the WNBA as teams had to reduce their roster to 11 active players and up to two on the injured list, but the Storm didn't wait that long to make its moves with a trip to Houston looming. Guard Kate Paye was waived on Monday, and rookie guard Chrissy Floyd also got waived a day later. More surprising was the team's decision to cut a pair of wing players who had been in the running for backup minutes, Kate Starbird and Stacey Thomas. To replace some of the perimeter depth lost in the cuts, the Storm acquired former Houston guard Rita Williams for a third-round pick in next year's draft. Williams, who played for Donovan in Indiana in 2000, played with the Comets for less than a half-season after being picked up in a trade with the Fever late last season. Williams joined the Storm in Houston and has played in both games so far. To make room for her on the roster, forward/center Danielle McCulley was placed on the injured list with left Achilles tendinitis.

The Week Ahead

Fri, May 30 L.A. Sparks 7:00 p.m. KeyArena (tickets) KONG 6/16 and 950 KJR AM

Storm Tracker Archive