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Storm Players Excited About The Stars at the Sun
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | Updated July 9, 2010
The Seattle Storm will send a sizeable contingent to Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena for WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun (12:30 p.m., ESPN), Saturday's midseason showcase for the league's best players which will pit a team of WNBA stars against the U.S. National Team.
On June 27, the league announced that Storm Head Coach Brian Agler will serve in the same capacity for the WNBA team because the Storm had clinched the league's best record as of July 1. On June 29, three Storm players - Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson - finished among the top 10 vote-getters in fan balloting and were assured spots in the game. And while Jackson will be unable to play because she is still recovering from a concussion suffered last Saturday, she traveled to Connecticut and will take part in Stars at the Sun festivities.
"I think it says a lot about not only individuals on the Storm team but how well we've played together," said Cash. "Obviously, there are three players who got in with the fan vote, but I wouldn't be surprised if another one or two got in."
"In regard to me coaching, it's all about the players because it's based on the best record at this point," said Agler. "I think it's a nice honor. It's all about them and they're the reason that I'm going. They're the reason that they're going because they've played well and they've played well together as a team."
For the second time in her career, Bird led all players in fan voting with more than 120,000 votes. She has been selected to start every All-Star Game in her career as well as The Stars at the Sun, but doesn't take that support for granted.
"It's awesome. It's an honor. I'm excited about it," she said. "Every year that something like this happens, it's very humbling. It's something I cherish in some ways."
"It's an honor to be voted in," added Cash, who was voted a starter last season as well as in 2005 while playing for the Detroit Shock, "especially when it's by the fans because they're why we play the game, to have them out here supporting us. I'm just happy. I'm excited to get back to Connecticut. Obviously I'll have family and friends who will be there. It will be a good time."
The unique format to this year's game means Storm players and their coach will be split up. Bird and Cash will play for USA Basketball against Agler's team of WNBA stars. They'll have a familiar face on their sideline in U.S. Head Coach Geno Auriemma, who coached both players at the nearby University of Connecticut.
"It kind of reminds me of the All-Star Game before the Olympics at Radio City Music Hall in 2004," said Cash, who won a gold medal with the U.S. that year. "The atmosphere will be great either way. Having Coach Auriemma on one side, Brian on the other side, it will be a good time."
For the National Team, this is more than just an All-Star-type game. It's also important preparation with the World Championships looming. The U.S. squad will practice, and has another exhibition scheduled for the following day against Storm rookie Abby Bishop and the rest of the Australian Opals, who will also gather to train in Connecticut.
"For our team - and this is something our national team has been dealing with for years now - it's tough to find time to train," said Bird, who has won two Olympic gold medals representing the U.S. "The few times that we can get together, it's important - whether it's one day, three days, two weeks, it's proven to be helpful - we learned that with the last Olympics."
"We need this practice time not only for players to get acclimated to Coach Auriemma's system, but there are a few players who are injured, so now other players are going to have to understand what their roles are if they make the team," added Cash. "That's very important. There's not another break before the World Championships where you're going to get everyone together and have a chance to practice, so this is going to be very important time. I know Coach Auriemma is going to utilize the time."