What's Next? Storm Prepares for Training Camp

The WNBA and its Players’ Association completed negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement early Friday morning – 3 a.m., according to league President Val Ackerman – clearing the way for teams to begin their final preparations for the 2003 season.

Those started with the past two days’ drafts, with players from the former Portland Fire and Miami Sol dispersed Thursday and the Amateur Draft Friday morning. The Storm selected former Fire forward/center Alisa Burras in the Dispersal Draft. In the Amateur Draft, the Storm selected Korean forward Jung Sun-Min in the first round, Australian center Suzy Batkovic in round two, and Clemson guard Chrissy Floyd in round three.

Tully Bevilaqua
Now, the Storm has less than a week to assemble a roster before the start of training camp Thursday, May 1. Seattle Coach Anne Donovan, starting her first camp with the Storm after spending the last two seasons with the Charlotte Sting, expects to bring 18 players to camp. That could include as many as 12 players from last year’s Storm roster, with only guard Michelle Marciniak – who retired earlier this month – not expected to return. Still, the Storm will be looking to round out its roster with the WNBA’s first free agents.

The new CBA provides for players who have been in the WNBA since its inaugural 1997 season and were not selected as one of their team’s two “core” players to become restricted free agents before the upcoming season. In addition, players who went undrafted in the Dispersal Draft and the Amateur Draft will also be free to sign wherever they want, a change from years past.

After passing on taking a perimeter player in favor of inside help in the drafts, the Storm will be looking for a veteran guard to replace Marciniak as the backup to All-Star Sue Bird. “We still see a need on the perimeter,” Donovan said in a press conference earlier today. Former Sol guard Sandy Brondello and former Portland guard Tully Bevilaqua. Bevilaqua started 82 games over the last three seasons with the Fire, while Brondello averaged 8.8 points per game last season in Miami.

Donovan and Storm general manager Billy McKinney believe that the Storm is in an excellent position in free agency. “We feel very confident from the signals we perceive that people want to play here,” McKinney said today. “That’s a good sign.”

Sandy Brondello
Although all the details are not yet clear, teams are expected to begin signing players as free agents on Tuesday, with camps opening two days later. As a result of the labor discussions, camps have been shortened by a half-week, something that won’t help Donovan teach her system to the Storm. “There will be an evaluation process, a teaching process,” she said today. “I don’t think we’ll hit our stride until the middle of the season.” Making matters worse, foreigners Lauren Jackson and Kamila Vodichkova are expected to be late to camp again this season. Donovan said she doesn’t expect Jackson until early-May and Vodichkova mid-May.

But while the camp may be shorter than usual, it will be especially intense. “Our training camp is going to be extremely competitive,” Donovan said, describing herself as “a clean slate” for the Storm’s players to start over with. As many as three spots in the starting lineup may be up for grabs, with Sue Bird and Jackson the only starters with guaranteed jobs. Burras should challenge Vodichkova at center, while second-year guard Felicia Ragland could unseat Adia Barnes alongside Bird in the backcourt.

While the Storm itself is still trying to understand how things will work in this new era of the WNBA, the team has benefited immensely from the NBA experience of McKinney. In particular, McKinney’s knowledge is valuable in working with the league’s new salary cap. In addition, the Storm has borrowed talent like Assistant GM Rich Cho from the Seattle SuperSonics to smooth the transition.