Storm Notebook - May 12
The Seattle Storm may have returned from its week in New York with a 72-58 preseason loss at the hands of the Liberty, but it was still a valuable week as the Storm prepares for May 21's season opener.
"I think the first thing it did is remind us all how much we missed Sue (Bird)," said Storm Coach Anne Donovan after Thursday's practice. "Her coming back and rejoining the team, she made a huge impact in 24 hours. Everybody has such a trust with her and a comfort level with her that people can settle in and do what they do best. Shaq ( Shaquala Williams) has done a great job, but it's just a comfort level with Sue."
Bird, whose Moscow Dynamo team lost in the Russian Superleague Finals last week, wasted no time before rejoining the Storm in New York and playing in Saturday's exhibition. She scored nine points and handed out three assists.
"We didn't run our offense as efficiently, but again, I attribute a lot of that to Sue not being there, Lauren not being on the floor for long stretches of practice and not having our starters," explained Donovan. "This week, we've had our starters, with the exception of the three spot, pretty consistently playing together. You can see real advancements within our offense.
"In New York, defensively, we had a ton that we hadn't covered that that point that we've covered this week, so I'm hopeful that the Saturday team will be sharper and better at both ends of the court."
With eight days until final rosters are due next Friday, Donovan's focus will now be on evaluating players. The starting small forward position remains wide open.
"Since we came back from New York, Alicia (Thompson)'s really stepped up and is shooting the ball really well," said Donovan. " Adia (Barnes) continues to do what she does well, which is defend. We have Izzy (Castro Marques) in camp now that's also fighting for that spot. I'm hopeful that things will start to separate, because right now decisions are very, very complicated without clear separation."
The Storm will also add Bird's Dynamo teammate, Natalia Vodopyanova, into the mix when she reports to camp. She's expected to fly in on Saturday. Donovan has ruled out adding another small forward to the mix, satisfied with the options already on the roster.
"I feel like we've got so many good options, we just haven't had anybody step up," said Donovan. "I'm not looking to muddle it any more than it's muddled. I really feel like somebody is qualified, and it's really a matter of who is going to separate."
Vodopyanova also could figure into the mix up front. Donovan won't know until she gets a look at Vodopyanova in action whether she will play primarily at small forward on the perimeter or in the post at power forward. That's an important distinction because Donovan prefers to keep five posts and seven perimeter players on the roster. If Vodopyanova is a post, either Simone Edwards or Mandisa Stevenson would likely be in trouble, but Donovan could keep three of the four small forwards currently in camp (Barnes, Castro Marques, Thompson and rookie Ashley Battle).
The Storm concludes its exhibition schedule Saturday against the Sacramento Monarchs at KeyArena (7:00 p.m., KJR 950 AM, ), but Donovan won't be placing extra emphasis on the results of that game as opposed to practices in her decision-making on the final roster.
"I'm looking forward to another game opportunity and our last before we tip off against L.A.," said Donovan. "It is so close to make these decisions that every day helps me, whether it's a gameday or a practice. I'm glad it's a game. It's nice to see them compete against other people, especially Sacramento, which will be one of our top competitors, but I can't say it's going to be that much more valuable than practice has been."
"Mandisa's been doing a nice job," said Donovan. "She's showing us that she's got some range, which we didn't know early in camp. It seems like every post [fighting for a roster spot] has a strong suit and has some kind of deficiency, but Mandisa probably has consistently stepped up there."
"We know each other so well," explained Edwards. "We did the same thing on the road. We knew what we were going to eat. We just had the routine going. It's different not having the Big Czech around."