Last Storm Original Brings New Attitude
Every time Seattle Storm center Simone Edwards has reported to training camp after the Storm's inaugural 2000 season, she's found more teammates gone. Slowly but surely, the number of players left from the 2000 team dwindled to two - Edwards and center Kamila Vodichkova - by the start of the 2003 season. Now, it's down to only Edwards after Vodichkova left the Storm for the Phoenix Mercury as a restricted free agent.
"You feel like there are certain things that all the new players ought to know," says Edwards. "They come in at this point, but they don't know the struggle we went through, where we were before. I'm just trying to keep that going so they know the people here in Seattle, they've been with us from when we were winning like four games. We need to give them the same effort every game and the same energy and the same interaction like I do. I'm always showing appreciation to the fans because I know where we were and I know how much appreciation they gave us."
It's that kind of attitude, in addition to the longevity, that has made Edwards a fan favorite at KeyArena. Rarely is Edwards spotted without a smile on her face, and her pre-game dance routine with Storm mascot Doppler is as much a part of a game at KeyArena as Arenavision.
With the Storm, Edwards is a role player. Since peaking in 2001, when she started 27 of the Storm's 32 games, Edwards has seen her minutes and points per game decrease each season. Last year, Edwards averaged 2.1 points in 11.2 minutes per game, shooting a career-worst 36.4% from the field.
"It's not the WNBA in Europe, but I'm still competing against good posts and still doing well, so it's the same thing here," says Edwards. "I just need to play my game to the level I know how to."
While the level of competition in Italy is obviously not the same as the WNBA, Edwards posted better statistics than Houston Comets center Michelle Snow (15.3 ppg, a league-leading 12.0 rpg). During the 2004 WNBA regular season, Snow averaged four times as many points and three times as many rebounds per game.
The difference, Edwards believes, is confidence.
"I forgot which teammate said to me, 'Once you hit the U.S., your confidence drops,'" she says.
This season, Edwards is hoping to reverse that trend by bringing a new attitude into training camp and trying to play the same way she does in Italy, while still fitting into her role as a complementary player coming off the Storm's bench.
"This year I'm way mentally prepared," says Edwards. "I put it on me a little. Once I change roles, I kind of get more passive, I lay back because I know Lauren (Jackson) and the others are in the rotation. I'm not looking for it. I have to be more aggressive."
Since Edwards arrived in Seattle on Monday, the process of working her way back into the lineup has been slowed by injury. Edwards sprained her left ankle in Italy in late March, and did not play again until joining the Storm. "I'm still like 70%, trying to work through pain and soreness," Edwards says. "I'm just trying to get my body going because I can't sit any longer, but I still cannot do quick movements. That's bugging me. And then my lower back now, because I've been out so long and I'm trying to come back, is a bit stiff and sore. Hopefully this will pass in a few days."
As was the case last year, nothing is guaranteed for Edwards. Her chances of making the Storm's final roster may depend on whether Russian forward Natalia Vodopyanova, who has yet to report to camp, ends up classified as a small forward, putting her in Storm Coach Anne Donovan's group of perimeter players, or as a power forward, making her a post.
Donovan's preference, as she's re-stated this year, is to keep five posts and seven perimeter players. After forwards Dionne Brown and Trina Frierson were waived Thursday, the Storm has five posts on the roster, but six if Vodopyanova is included. If Vodopyanova plays power forward, Edwards would be battling training-camp invitee Mandisa Stevenson for the final spot up front behind Jackson, Janell Burse and Suzy Batkovic.
That decision won't be easy.
"We lost so much with Kamila, Tully (Bevilaqua) and Sheri (Sam); we lost so much experience," says Donovan. "So the little bit that we've got left sitting on our bench, it's tough to consider letting that go. And at the same time, we've got very good young kids that may develop into players, so losing the ability to coach them and develop them is tough. There's some hard decisions ahead."
Edwards has learned from years past that worrying about whether she will make the team does no good.
"Every time I come into camp, I know it's the decision of the coaches," says Edwards. "You just have to do what you have to do and then the coach makes the decision in the end. I don't stress."