All-Star Omission is Motivation for Lennox
When the WNBA announced the reserves for Saturday's All-Star Game on Tuesday evening, Seattle Storm guard Betty Lennox's name wasn't on the list. Other Western Conference teams may have been celebrating their good fortune at the time - only the Storm and Phoenix from the West did not have a player chosen as a reserve, though the Storm still has as many players as any West team with two starters - but the payback will eventually come in the form of a motivated Lennox down the stretch.
"If I really played for the negative people, I wouldn't be where I am today," Lennox said after the Storm practiced Tuesday. "If I feel like I should be a part of something and I don't get chosen, just use that as motivation and continue to move forward."
"I just feel sorry for whatever team we play when that comes out," said Lennox.
The Sun has already had that experience this season, when Lennox tied the Storm franchise record by scoring 23 points in the second half of Seattle's June 22 victory over Connecticut at KeyArena. Lennox also delivered All-Star caliber performances on May 27 vs. Houston, when she scored 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and June 10 at Washington, when she had 18 points and eight rebounds.
The question is consistency. Lennox was locked in over the season's first eight games, scoring double-figures in each. But she's reached that mark only three times in the last stretch of eight games, and has averaged only 8.2 points over the last five games since the Connecticut explosion.
"She certainly started the year off well," said Storm Coach Anne Donovan, who isn't sure whether Lennox has had an All-Star first half. "She's had All-Star games - Connecticut, for example. But I think All-Star is about more consistency. Statistically, Betty has not done that."
Still, as of today, Lennox ranks fifth amongst Western Conference guards in scoring (12.8 points per game, up 1.6 from last season's average) and first in rebounding (4.4 rpg). That performance, she felt, warranted an All-Star berth.
"I know at the end that I'm distributing, I'm doing what I'm supposed to do on this Seattle Storm team," said Lennox. "I guess everybody doesn't feel like I deserve to be an All-Star."
But, as Lennox also said, "I can't look back. I can only look forward."
That means considering a second half wide open with possibility for Lennox and the Storm. After all, this time a year ago, Lennox was mired in a curiously similar slump. After starting the season by scoring double-figures in 10 of her first 11 games, Lennox broke her nose on June 22 against Houston. Over the next six games she played (she missed two following surgery on the nose), Lennox averaged only 7.2 points per game on 33.3% shooting. After playing better the remainder of July, Lennox used the WNBA's August Olympics Break to get her mind and body right for the stretch run of the season, which culminated in her Finals performance. This year's All-Star break presents the same opportunity.
"I'm going to use this break to get my shot back, get my legs back, just like last season I did when we had the Olympic break," said Lennox. "All positive things are going to come from Betty. Yes, I'm in a shooting slump right now and again, I've just got to be motivated to get myself out of that, and I believe in myself that I will come out of that."
While Lennox won't really get time off, as she works hard on her game while the All-Stars are in Connecticut, she will get a break from the exhausting travel schedule the Storm faced during a grueling month of June. That's something she looks forward to.
"This part of the season so far has been kind of hard on my legs and everything, all this travel and stuff like that, so I've been feeling sluggish," Lennox said. "Again, this break is very important for me."
As much as Lennox is working to get out of her slump and back on track, so too is it a key goal for her Storm teammates and coaching staff.
"We've really got to get Betty going," said Donovan before Sunday's game against Sacramento, pointing to Lennox's increased role this year. "This year, it's Sue (Bird), Lauren (Jackson) and Betty. Those are the numbers we're looking at every time out, we're looking at what they're doing and how they're doing it. There's much more expectation of Betty this year."
"When Betty plays well - look at the Connecticut game - she really is unstoppable," said Bird. "So I think, as a team, for her to get back into her flow will help everybody out. I don't think she's playing that bad; her shots aren't falling. Whenever that's happening, as a point guard, I definitely try to set people up more."
Lennox wanted to be an All-Star. When opposing teams see how she reacts to that disappointment, they too might wish she'd been chosen.