Aaron Last/Storm Photos
Fresh Start: Cash Begins Anew in Seattle
When she was traded to the Seattle Storm in February, Swin Cash faced far and away the biggest change of her WNBA career. Cash had spent her first seven seasons in Detroit, all but the first 10 games under the same coach. Despite the success she had experienced with the Shock, both individually and as part of a pair of championship teams, Cash was ready for a fresh start in Seattle.
"I think after the whole trade went down in Detroit and everything was finished up, for me it was just taking a new step, opening a new door," says Cash. "I'm a very faithful person and I know that God doesn't make mistakes and everything happens for a reason. For me, it was just look to the future."
To know why Cash is here, however, requires looking back at her past to see how a Detroit career that started with so much promise ended in disappointment.
Taken by the Shock with the second overall pick - just after the Storm selected Sue Bird - in the 2002 WNBA Draft, Cash was the centerpiece around whom Detroit rebuilt its roster. Early in Cash's rookie season, Bill Laimbeer took over on the sidelines for the Shock. The following season, Detroit added Cheryl Ford and Ruth Riley to holdovers Cash and Deanna Nolan, and the young core of players, none older than 24, took the Shock all the way to a WNBA championship.
At the same time, Cash's relationship with Laimbeer had begun to falter. A New York Times story early last season shed light on the testy situation in the locker room, with the head coach and his assistant, Rick Mahorn, berating Cash over turnovers and mistakes on the floor.
"I think I was in denial a few times personally about whether it wasn't just working," Cash says of the end of her Detroit career. "I think I did a lot of soul-searching to see if it was me, if there was something I was doing wrong - maybe I could do something different. You never want to just give up on a situation. That's the one thing I always pride myself on is not giving up."
With Cash starting despite a back injury that limited her, the Shock returned to the WNBA Finals last summer and had a chance to put the Mercury away on the road in Game 4. With a championship potentially on the line, Cash was not on the floor for Detroit down the stretch. When Phoenix completed its comeback by winning the deciding Game 5 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Cash had to face the possibility that she had played her last game in a Shock uniform.
"It's hard to be in the position I am now, to face what my future might be, whether it's in Detroit or some place else," she told reporters after the game while fighting tears. "And that's hard, because I thought that I would start here and I would retire here. But obviously, watching this season, you really have to ask yourself, 'Is there still a place for me here in Detroit?' And that's something I'll have evaluate this off-season, and that's hard for me."
In her mind, there was still a chance for her to return to the Shock. It quickly dawned on her that others interpreted her comments as a farewell, calling and sending e-mails supporting her. After taking some time away from the game to reflect, it became clear to Cash that the time was right to move on. The toughest part of that was the thought of leaving Detroit, which had become a second home to Cash during her six seasons with the Shock.
"I loved the city of Detroit - still love the city of Detroit, the people there, the fans," she says. "That's why it was so hard. It wasn't just like it was basketball. If I was a player that played overseas and I came back in, played here four months and then was gone, really had no attachment to the city, it wouldn't have mattered as much, but for me it was a personal decision. That's why I think it took a little more time to sink in for me."
The Shock made Cash, who would have been an unrestricted free agent, one of their core players. However, the team made it clear it was looking to get value in exchange for her rights in a trade and was willing to accommodate her in finding a new destination.
As Cash looked for the best fit for a new home, the Storm emerged at the top of her list for a number of reasons, starting with new Head Coach Brian Agler.
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Then, there was the Storm's roster, and specifically the team's centerpieces, Bird and Lauren Jackson. Cash knew that joining a team with All-Star building blocks at point guard and in the paint would give her a chance to continue to compete for a championship on a yearly basis. That's not to mention the opportunity to reunite with Bird, her college teammate at UConn she describes as like a sister.
Cash was also excited about the opportunity to work with the Storm's new ownership group, Force 10 Hoops L.L.C., the four local businesswomen who came together to purchase the Storm in January and ensure the team's future in Seattle.
"I'm big on women empowering other women," Cash explains. "To see how successful they'd been here in Seattle and to have everyone behind the Storm was the third factor for me."
When Agler and the Shock were able to work out a deal sending the No. 4 overall pick in the upcoming draft to Detroit, the move was complete and Cash was introduced in Seattle in mid-February. What she didn't realize at the time is that the Storm had only just begun an off-season makeover that would ultimately bring veteran All-Stars Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes to Seattle as well.
Agler and the Storm's coaching staff have been looking forward to working with Cash. Their belief is they can get more production out of her by catering to her skills and putting her in a more comfortable position than her last few seasons with the Shock.
"We've got a strong sense of what we would like to do with her to get her to play to her strengths," says Agler. "I just feel like that may have not occurred a whole lot the last couple of years there. Not really anybody's fault, other than the fact that they brought in a series of players the last couple of years that have moved her around from position to position. I think if she has the ability to really play to her strengths, she can be a heck of a player."
Cash got a late start on training camp because she was playing with the U.S. Senior Women's National Team in an Olympic tune-up tournament in Beijing. After joining the team between its first two preseason games, she made an immediate impact, scoring a team-high 17 points, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out five assists in her Storm debut at Sacramento. Cash has only been in Seattle for a week and a half, but she's already loving the experience on and off the floor.
"It's been awesome," Cash says. "I can say, first of all, the restaurants have been great. I love seafood, so eating out here, I think I'll put on a couple more pounds. I'm looking forward to it. The Storm - everyone's working really hard. Looking forward to getting Sue and Lauren back and really taking this thing to the next level. The focus is there. The bar is set really high. We understand what the goal is and what the destination is at the end. You have to take steps every single day to get to that goal, and that's what we're doing."
She envisions the potential for a magical year like Bird experienced four years ago, when she won a gold medal in the Olympics and then followed it up with a WNBA championship. Cash thought she was headed to that rare double before her knee injury. Now the good friends have a chance to go for that goal together. The pursuit starts in earnest on Saturday when the Storm tips off the 2008 season against the Chicago Sky (7:00 p.m., 1150 AM KKNW, ), and Cash can't wait.
"I think Opening Night, this place is going to be rocking," she says. "I think the fans are going to be in for a treat because it's going to be a new team, new look, new year. Everyone's just really excited - I know I am."