Notebook: Turner Nervous About WNBA Debut
After tweaking her back during the Seattle Storm's practice on Friday, Storm rookie Barbara Turner was insistent the injury would not be a problem for Sunday's preseason opener against the New York Liberty at KeyArena (6:00 p.m., KJR 950 AM, ).
"I wouldn't miss that for the world," Turner told reporters.
Sunday will be the first game of Turner's professional career, and after a training camp which has seen her impress everyone who has had the opportunity to watch her play, Turner is ready to go - but still a little anxious.
Turner says she first began thinking seriously about the possibility of playing in the WNBA in high school, when she worked out against Semeka Randall, like Turner a Cleveland native who was then playing at Tennessee. Randall would eventually be drafted in the second round in 2001 by the Storm, playing a season and a half in Seattle and four years in the WNBA
"We would play against each other, and I knew she was at an elite school in Tennessee," Turner said. "I would kind of give her a hard time. I was a lot younger than her, but I would be tough on her. That right there kind of let me know, if I continue to work on my game and expend my game, I'd definitely have a chance to play on the professional level."
Years later, that vision will become reality against the New York Liberty. The game will also give Turner a chance to go up against former UConn teammate Ashley Battle, who was drafted by the Storm last year and played one game in Seattle. Battle, who signed as a free agent with the Liberty over the off-season, scored five points and had three rebounds Thursday as New York opened its preseason schedule with a 55-52 win in Sacramento.
Turner sees the game as a chance to measure her game and take stock of her transition from the NCAA to the WNBA.
"You don't want to overdo it, obviously, but it will give you sort of a measuring stick of what you need to work on to play at this level," said Turner. "Obviously, it's going to be a lot different from playing in college, so I think that's the only thing I can take it as, is as a measuring stick."
Storm Coach Anne Donovan feels her team is ready to turn its attention to a game after practicing for the last two weeks.
"I'm glad we have an exhibition game," she said. "The timing of our preseason schedule has come perfectly."
The Storm's first unit looked ready for the preseason on Friday, starting a scrimmage against the team's male practice squad with a 15-0 run and cruising to a 23-11 victory. Storm All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson worked together for the first time during camp and looked like they've been playing together for years (which they have). On a fast break, Bird no-look bounced the ball behind her to a trailing Jackson, who pulled up and drained a 3-pointer.
With incumbent starting forward Iziane Castro Marques arriving in Seattle about as the Storm was practicing and yet to take a physical, Tanisha Wright worked with the Storm's four other starters. Castro Marques is not expected to play on Sunday, which could put Wright in the starting lineup.
"Against a lot of teams, it wouldn't be a good matchup, but I think against New York we can get away with it," said Donovan about the three-guard attack.
Later, the Storm's second unit - with starters rotating in and out at times - defeated the practice squad 12-8 in another scrimmage. That was plenty for the members of the practice squad.
"I have two speeds - full speed and pass out," joked Jimmy Quigg, who practices regularly with the Storm. "And I'm on the verge of pass out."
Training Camp Bumps and Bruises
The Storm's practice ended with Jackson and center Janell Burse on the sidelines along with Turner. While Jackson's rest was scheduled as the Storm manages her ailing left shin, Burse and Turner were banged up during the scrimmages. Burse hurt her left shoulder - the same one in which she had a partially torn labrum that kept her out of practice for a week - but apparently not seriously.
"I reached back too far trying to get a rebound," Burse explained. "The trainer said I hyperextended it. I think tomorrow I'll just be a little sore."
Burse said she hopes to play on Sunday. Turner should be fine by then after receiving ice and stim treatment on her back.
"When it first happened (it was painful)," she said, "but it got a lot better."
While Jackson continues to be limited to an hour's worth of practice every other day, she has been outstanding when she has been on the court for practice.
"She's not completely in the groove," said Donovan, "which is not going to happen as long as she's not able to practice and work through learning new teammates and learning the tweaks in our offense and our defense. She's not playing at the level she wants to play at, but the level she's playing at is pretty good."
"I've been playing (in Australia), so it's not as hard to get in the flow as it has been before," said Jackson, who noted that the limited practice schedule has kept her from being bothered by the "niggling" minor injuries that usually affect her during training camp.
The early expectation is that Jackson will play about 20 minutes on Sunday, though that will depend on how she continues to respond to workouts and how she feels during the game. Donovan was hesitant to tie herself to a specific minutes number.
"The back-to-back wasn't something we set out to do, but we were having a hard time getting a third game, and when it presented itself as a back-to-back, that was fine," she said. "I didn't want to go against the West. I did not want to keep beating ourselves up with the Western Conference. I was eager to play Chicago, just to see what they've got. Minnesota, I thought, was a good test, knowing they were going to get a good pick."
"We're getting pretty down to it, aren't we?" said Donovan.
"We're looking at the waiver wire. Our numbers are less than I thought they'd be. I thought we'd have a true backup point guard in here, but the ones we've had in, Shaun (Gortman) and T (Wright) are doing a better job than they would have done at the spot. We're still looking at that position; we're still looking at the post position, so there's some evaluating left."
Though Donovan said last week she was thinking the Storm would likely keep 11 players on the final roster, a 12-player roster remains a possibility.
"What I'm committed to is not keeping players who won't play or help us," said Donovan. "There's a lot that goes into that. It's not just 2006. It's who we're developing for down the road, looking at who has some free agency next year and how that plays in. We're looking at managing a lot of cap issues, and not just for '06."