Three Days Before Opener, Three Spot Still Open
As the countdown clock located in the Seattle Storm's business office counts down to Saturday's 2005 Season Opener against the Los Angeles Sparks (1:00 p.m., ABC, ), Storm Coach Anne Donovan is still deciding who will be her starting at small forward.
"That's going to be (a) game-time (decision)," Donovan said after the Storm practiced Wednesday.
The Storm opened camp nearly a month ago with five small forwards potentially in the mix - returning veterans Adia Barnes and Alicia Thompson, free-agent pickups Iziane Castro Marques and Natalia Vodopyanova and draft pick Ashley Battle. Though Barnes was waived Wednesday and Battle and Vodopyanova no longer appear to be in the mix, the battle is only slightly less complicated.
"Tanisha, she's just so valuable we've got to find a way to get her on the floor," said Donovan. "We have a hole at the three. She's effective at the three. She puts the ball on the floor well. She can defend one, two or three - that's what she did at Penn State, so that was no surprise."
Wright stood out in Saturday's preseason finale at KeyArena, scoring 13 points against the Sacramento Monarchs and getting to the free-throw line 15 times.
"When a kid gets to the free-throw line 15 times, she's doing alright," said Donovan. "So we'll try to find her minutes. We've used her everywhere - at the point guard, now the small forward."
For her part, Wright doesn't care where she plays.
"It's just a matter of who's out there with you, making that adjustment," said Wright. "But the people I've been playing with are excellent people, so it's been a natural move anywhere."
Castro Marques has had to make up ground since reporting to camp last week following the conclusion of her season in Russia.
"(It's been) very hard, because I came late and from very different basketball in Russia," she said. "You have to pick up things, and they're already in front of you, so you're behind. I think I'm trying to do my best and I think I'm picking it up little by little. I hope Saturday I'll be ready."
The athletic 6-0 Castro Marques has primarily played shooting guard during two WNBA seasons with Miami and Phoenix, but the Storm is looking at her at small forward. That's no problem for Castro Marques, as she's played all over the place overseas.
"Overseas I play two or three, even one sometimes when needed," Castro Marques said. "We do everything overseas. This last season, I was playing almost the whole season at three, so I was coming from the same position she (Coach Donovan) needs now."
Both players are working on the defensive end of the court. While Wright was a three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, she has to adjust to the WNBA's new rules interpretation that does not allow hand or forearm contact above the free-throw line.
"The new rules are really a struggle for me, because I'm so used to using my hands," said Wright. "At the NCAA level, you can use your hands and you can use your forearms. At this level, they're trying to cut that out completely, so the minute you put your hand one someone, even if you're trying to size somebody up, they call a foul. It's a matter of getting it into your mind that you can't touch."
Castro Marques has not been known for her defense throughout her career and is trying to prove herself to Donovan at that end of the court.
"She just talked to me this weekend and mostly, it's my defense," said Castro Marques. "Overseas, the defense sucks. Here, I have to really work on it and get back to how WNBA players play defense."
While Donovan says there's a very realistic chance of Wright starting on Saturday, the rookie still has smaller concerns.
"I came into camp hoping to make the team," said Wright. "That's still where I'm at; there is no guarantee. Everyone's fighting for a position here and I'm still fighting until that last day where the final roster is made."
Castro Marques is still looking to show what she can do, whether as a starter or as a reserve.
"I think every player wants to be a starter, but I think more important for me now is to get some minutes and prove myself, that I can play and help the team," Castro Marques said. "I think if I can do that, maybe I can become a starter or not. But if I can play and help the team, that's what matters."
No matter who ends up in the starting lineup against the Sparks, several small forwards will see action this season. Donovan says that minutes and even who starts could end up being determined on a game-to-game basis based on matchups.
"We have people who are more suited to zone than they would be to man-to-man; people who are more suited to play (Los Angeles forward Chamique) Holdsclaw than they would be a shooting guard," said Donovan. "Things that are established Saturday may not be determined the following weekend, and lots will be determined on matchups."