Notebook: Burse Completes First Practice
Late in the Seattle Storm's morning practice on Monday, the Storm lineup on the court got a stop against the team's male practice squad. Center Janell Burse wasted no time turning the other direction and heading upcourt, sprinting to beat the men and establish position in the paint. Burse was rewarded for her effort with a pass in the post and spun into a five-foot short jumper she knocked down.
Welcome back, Janell Burse.
"Awesome. Great practice," said Storm Coach Anne Donovan afterwards. "She's been working hard on the sidelines, obviously, because her conditioning was good too. Some of the little tweaks we're making offensively are going to help JB get freer looks. Nice to have her back."
Specifically, the little tweaks Donovan referenced are about encouraging Burse to run the floor and beat defensive players to the paint, where she showed a much-improved ability to finish last season in averaging a career-high 10.0 points per game on career-best 52.3% shooting.
"It's just about sprinting down in transition, trying to beat the defender, hitting layups," explained Burse. "It's outworking the opponent. If we do that, there should be some easy baskets for us from time to time."
"It was so good not being on the sideline again," said Burse, who suffered the injury while playing for her USK Praha team in the Czech Republic early in April. Since then, she had not played with any contact for nearly four weeks.
Burse was putting in plenty of individual work to maintain her conditioning, which allowed her to step right back into practice and keep up with her teammates.
"My conditioning feels great," she said. "Chattin Hill, the strength and conditioning coach, he is wonderful. I didn't get tired at all today. He had me doing a lot of sprints on the treadmill, a lot of court workouts. That was my biggest concern, was my wind. It was a big concern of mine, and I made a big concern for him."
The next test for Burse will be to see how she responds to her first practice. The Storm will be watching for signs of soreness to determine how rapidly Burse can continue working her way back into practice.
For the first time since the start of camp, the Storm had three starters on the court, with forward Lauren Jackson, whose practice time continues to be severely limited as the Storm manages the stress fracture in her left shin, joining Burse for an hour's worth of work, including controlled scrimmaging against the practice squad.
"She's doing well," said Donovan. "She's asking us to practice more, so she's moving along in the recovery process, let's put it that way. But LJ, much like JB, when we practice as hard as today - we went up and down quite a bit when she was out there for that hour - we'll see how she does and how she recovers. The goal right now is every other day to have her on the floor."
After what might have been the Storm's most competitive day of practice, Donovan was upbeat about where her team is in building up to next Sunday's preseason opener against the New York Liberty at KeyArena (6:00 p.m., KJR 950 AM, ).
"For a week into camp," Donovan said, "I'm really pleased with where we are - where we are on evaluations, where we are on performance."
All Roads Lead to Seattle
After getting Simone Edwards in Seattle for practice last Friday, the Storm continues to move closer to having a full complement of players.
Point guard Sue Bird helped lead her Dynamo Moscow team to an 80-74 victory over Spartak Moscow on Sunday, completing a 3-0 series win over Spartak that secured Dynamo third place in the Russian Superleague. Bird had seven points and five assists, while teammate Diana Taurasi exploded for 28 points. The Storm anticipates Bird's return on Wednesday.
Forward Iziane Castro Marques is awaiting her visa to return to the U.S.
"Once she gets the visa - which we anticipate will be Tuesday - we'll get her on a plane," said Donovan. "(She'll be here) before the end of the week."
The news is not as good on training-camp invitee Tiffani Johnson. Donovan does not expect Johnson in Seattle until after Sunday's game.
"She had a good day today, which is good," said Donovan. "She needed to get in and get competitive."
As the battle to back up Bird continues playing out, Donovan sounded somewhat less optimistic about using Shaunzinski Gortman in that role.
"Gortman has played well, but she's not a natural point guard," Donovan said. "We've got enough time to see if she gets more comfortable and could possibly be Sue's backup, but I'm still inclined to get a natural point guard."