Lessons From Storm Training Camp
A week and a half into the Seattle Storm's 2007 training camp, a few things have quickly become apparent. Here's what we've learned.
Katie Gearlds does miss - but not very often.
It was common knowledge that the Storm's first-round draft pick out of Purdue was an excellent shooter. Just how good she is, however, has come as something of a surprise. At times, Gearlds has been nearly perfect from downtown - all while adjusting to the WNBA and frequently being asked to play point guard.
Teammates have been free with their praise.
"Her shot is so sweet," said Wendy Palmer. "It's like money every time."
"She didn't miss a shot," said Janell Burse after practicing with Gearlds for the first time. "I don't remember her ever missing. I was like, 'Wow, she really is a good shooter."
Gearlds is coming along defensively as well.
Asked about the surprise of camp so far, Storm Coach Anne Donovan spotlighted Gearlds' play at the defensive end of the court - considered her weakness entering the league.
"We knew she was a tremendous shooter that was going to have impact offensively for us, but really wondered how quickly she was going to come along defensively," Donovan said. "Her improvement from day one to day 11 ... it's incredible. That's really been a pleasant surprise. She's going to be able to stay on the floor for long stretches for us."
"It's definitely something I've focused on, understanding that I'm not going to see any playing time if I can't guard anybody," said Gearlds. "I'm just trying to take baby steps and get better every day, working on footwork and putting myself in the right position. I think I'm more confident defensively. There's still room for improvement and hopefully the baby steps will lead to strides here eventually."
This camp has a different feel.
While Barbara Turner dazzled as a rookie last spring, the early part of the last two Storm training camps were defined as much by the absence of point guard Sue Bird as anything else. That Bird is still playing overseas (along with Turner, Lauren Jackson and Betty Lennox) looms over this year's camp to some extent, but mostly only because of the lack of bodies on the perimeter. The offense has not bogged down with Gearlds and Tanisha Wright running the point.
"I think Katie has a whole lot to do with how quickly our offense is coming together," said Donovan, "because she's a solid perimeter player that steps in immediately. But last year Sue was back earlier, so it was a little bit easier to have the thought of 'Let's wait for Sue.' This year, they come back so late, we can't wait. If we wait, we're not prepared for May 19. Fortunately, T (Wright) has really helped us with that. If T had not come back ready, we would have had the free agents here much longer."
Donovan is often stingy with her praise early during camp, but has enjoyed what she has seen so far this year.
"I think we're really coming together," she said last week. "I'm really pleased. They're working so hard with limited substitutions and not a lot of rest time and yet they continue to come back every day and just really bust it and work through it, so I'm really pleased with the progression."
Palmer is working her way back.
With each passing day, Palmer seems to be shaking off the rust after missing the final 29 games of last season and being away from WNBA-caliber basketball for more than 10 months.
DAILY CAMP REPORT
Donovan says Palmer is still not 100% in shape, and the team continues to bring her back slowly, but Palmer has already shown good touch from the field and should see her conditioning improve as camp and the preseason go on.
A small camp can be a good camp.
After waiving post Brooke Queenan yesterday, the Storm is left with only 13 players on its roster - the number some teams carry into the season, though salary-cap considerations will likely force the Storm to make two more cuts. The team has gone through most of camp with only seven or eight players available, but working against the male practice squad has allowed the Storm to get in plenty of reps with individualized attention.
"The coaches have a lot more time with us," said Palmer. "They can interact with us a lot more instead of having so many people that there's no time. It's a more personal setting. It's worked really well."
The result is that Donovan has been able to install the team's defense and what she wants to put in of the team's offense (saving much of it for when Bird, Jackson and Lennox, the team's focal points, are in camp) with relatively little difficulty.