Griffith Seeking Championship with Storm
Lest there be any lingering question about Yolanda Griffith's emotions upon signing with the Seattle Storm, Griffith finished the press conference introducing her to the Seattle media by pounding the table in front of her and exclaiming, "I'm excited!"
After spending her entire nine-year WNBA career with the Sacramento Monarchs, winning the 1999 MVP award and the WNBA championship in 2005, Griffith decided to move north as an unrestricted free agent, hoping to win another ring.
Agler was thrilled to make Griffith the third big-name addition to the Storm this off-season, following forward Swin Cash and guard Sheryl Swoopes. Like Cash and Swoopes, Griffith has won throughout her career, leading Sacramento to the Western Conference Finals four times and to a pair of Finals appearances and winning Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004, the latter alongside Cash, Swoopes and Storm guard Sue Bird.
Having coached against Griffith going back to their days in the ABL, Agler praised her as both a player and a leader, saying, "I don't know if there's a better competitor that this game," and adding that Griffith, "Probably has impacted her team's success as a leader more so than anybody else in our league."
Over the course of her career, Griffith has established herself as one of the top offensive rebounders and defenders in league history. Her 968 offensive rebounds are tops in WNBA history, and Griffith is second all-time in total rebounds with 2,248. She's sixth in career scoring (4,002 points). Griffith also ranks in the WNBA's all-time top 10 in steals (486, fourth) and blocks (304, eighth) and was the WNBA's Defensive Player of the Year in 1999.
Griffith's path to Seattle began with her decision as to whether she would return after a challenging 2007 season. She played through a torn ligament in her right thumb, missing only two games and averaging 9.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. After the Monarchs saw their season come to an end with a painful Game 3 loss at San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs, Griffith, who turned 38 on March 1, considered retirement.
A month after the season, Griffith underwent surgery on the thumb and went through rehabilitation. By around the start of the New Year, her desire to play had come back.
"Once you win a championship, you get that feeling or you get that urge," she explained. "I got the urge again. I want to taste it again."
That decided, it was a matter of Griffith figuring out where she would play. Given all she had already accomplished in Sacramento, Griffith thought the time was right for a change of scenery.
"It was a tough decision, but it was a decision that I was comfortable making," she said, "I'm comfortable with this decision and I'm ready to play. I'm thankful for the opportunity that the Monarchs gave me, and I'm going to always still have Monarch blood within me. I've been a leader, the captain, everything, and they have great players that can take my place now, so that was a decision that needed to be made."
Several teams expressed interest to Griffith's agent, but she desired to stay in the Western Conference. As Griffith considered her options, new Storm addition Swoopes tried to help the process by calling Griffith and pitching Seattle, but the decision ultimately came down to Griffith and her family. They found that Seattle was the right fit.
Agler chatted with Palmer, an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, at the Final Four over the weekend. She remains uncertain about returning for another season, and Agler said the team hasn't decided whether to invite Palmer to training camp if she decides to play. Robinson, a restricted free agent, is talking with other teams but would like to return to Seattle, Agler shared. If Robinson signs an offer sheet with another team, the Storm would have five days to decide whether to match the offer.
Entering what could be her final season, Griffith appears as excited as ever to begin training camp a week from Monday, in large part because of the Storm's potential. During the press conference, Griffith made reference to the possibility of putting together a "women's Boston Celtics," matching the success of the Celtics, who have won an NBA-best 62 games after adding All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in off-season trades. Having won a championship, she is well aware of how difficult that process will be.
"I know it's going to be tough, because you have veteran players who are coming to a team that's already established," Griffith said. "There's a lot of great players on this team, but there's a lot of great teams in the WNBA. Just because you have so many great players together doesn't guarantee a championship. It's going to take hard work and dedication and that's what we're going to do."