Storm Notebook - May 18

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Kevin Pelton, | May 18, 2005
Storm Moves Closer to Final Roster

With two days left until the WNBA's deadline for submitting final rosters, the Seattle Storm is moving closer to its final group of players.

A big piece of Coach Anne Donovan's puzzle fell into place this week when Russian forward Natalia Vodopyanova reported to training camp. Donovan had yet to determine whether Vodopyanova was primarily a power forward or a small forward. From two days of practice, it is evident to Donovan that Vodopyanova will play the wing.

With Donovan's preference to keep five posts on the roster and only four left in camp - starters Janell Burse and Lauren Jackson and reserves Simone Edwards and Mandisa Stevenson - as well as center Suzy Batkovic, who will not report until early June, the frontcourt appears to be set barring a last-minute pickup.

Vodopyanova's ability to play small forward likely factored into the decision Wednesday to release veteran small forward with Adia Barnes. In all likelihood, the Storm has one more cut left from amongst its four remaining small forwards - Vodopyanova, Ashley Battle, Iziane Castro Marques and Alicia Thompson.

Another cut will come at point guard, where Donovan has said she will only keep one of Shaquala Williams, one of the standouts early during training camp, and Italian Francesca Zara, recently signed as a free agent.

The Storm does not plan to pursue either Sheila Lambert, who was drafted by Donovan in Charlotte, or Toccara Williams after the point guards were released yesterday.

"We discussed it, as always, but we're happy with what we've got in camp," said Donovan.

Cuts at small forward and point guard would leave the Storm with a 12-player roster. Teams can keep up to 13 players - 11 active and two on the injured list - but it's expected the Storm will keep only 12, as was the case last season. Batkovic does count against that number, and must be kept on the active roster even while she remains overseas.

Barnes, who had the most WNBA experience of any player on the Storm roster, was the victim of the Storm's move to get younger and build a core group of young players who can grow together.

"We have so many players that are neck and neck, so a lot of our evaluation is what we think we're going to get out of certain players," Donovan explained. "We're maybe not completely seeing everything we're going to see at this point, but down the road our confidence that they'll develop into what we need."

Newcomer Evaluation

Donovan is having to do a quick job of evaluating newcomers Zara and Vodopyanova. Her first impressions:

"Zara is who we thought she was - a very good offensive player. She's 28, so she has a little more maturity than we've brought in with the other foreign free agents. Good offensive player; competitive defensively. She showed us her range today, shot the ball very well. She's comfortable running the team as a point guard."

One-on-one defense will be an issue for Zara, and she was beaten for a layup by Williams during practice on Wednesday, but Donovan said Zara's intelligence has helped her hide this deficiency.

"I think yesterday we totally threw (Vodopyanova) in the fire; that was very unfair. She's probably never played against guys. So not only was she in her first practice with us, she was playing against guys. I think yesterday she was a little bit starstruck playing against the size, the strength, the athleticism of the guys on our practice team. She settled in a little bit today."

  • Hot off the press, Sparks media guides were sitting on the press table courtside after this morning's practice. Donovan was holding one as she talked about Los Angeles' new-look roster.

    "L.A. with a healthy Chamique Holdsclaw is a very dangerous team," said Donovan. "She's playing the three comfortably for them. They've got great depth with (Lisa) Leslie and (Christi) Thomas inside and (Tamika) Whitmore coming off the bench. It's a very potent team."

  • While the Storm practiced there today, KeyArena is very much in Sonics Playoffs made with Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs scheduled for Thursday evening (7:30 p.m., FSN/ESPN). The Storm worked on the Sonics' court and kept score with the two teams labeled 'Spurs' and 'Sonics' on the scoreboard.

  • Point guard Sue Bird hooked up with Burse for several scores in the paint.