More Questions Than Answers About Stormís Roster
With potentially up to 24 players fighting for presumably 12 roster spots, Seattle Storm Coach Anne Donovan will be busy between now and May 20. Just as last year, this training camp promises to be the most competitive in Storm history, with a key difference - while last year's heated battles were for spots on the bench or on the roster, this year starting spots are up for grabs.
The Storm held its first 2005 practice Monday night with 14 players in camp. Seven more - Adia Barnes, Suzy Batkovic, Sue Bird, Iziane Castro Marques, Simone Edwards, Michelle Greco and Natalia Vodopyanova - are playing overseas and will trickle in over the next few weeks.
"Jessica goes to the doctor tomorrow, Tuesday, and we'll know more," Donovan told reporters at media day. "Her back has been better. The initial prognosis was that she would be out four to six weeks, nothing. She's already doing pool workouts. It's going to be a very difficult decision on that, obviously. It's her back, she's had surgery on it before, so we're really not sure what we're going to do, honestly."
No matter the results of tomorrow's examination, Bibby is out for the time being. With Bird also absent, that leaves the Storm with only two point guards in camp, both invitees - Oregon grad and one-year WNBA veteran Shaquala Williams and Amy Taylor, a rookie out of Division II Seattle Pacific University. First-round pick Tanisha Wright, a shooting guard by trade, will play some point in camp, but, says Donovan, "Sue can't get here fast enough."
"We're not in any rush, we know that," said Donovan. "It's not a financial piece at all on this, it's really just whether it makes sense or not to bring in somebody that has a current back injury that may flare up again during the season."
Another factor reducing the urgency is that Donovan doesn't see any free agent point guards still available worth picking up.
Though not as questionable as Bibby's arrival, other players' returns are question marks depending on how their teams fare in championship series overseas. Greco and Barnes are expected back later this week. Edwards and Bird should return during the first week of May, with Bird planning to meet the Storm in New York, where they will spend several days and play a preseason game against the Liberty on May 7.
Castro Marques and Vodopyanova, who are in Russia with Bird (Vodopyanova is her teammate on Moscow Dynamo), should return shortly thereafter after tying up loose ends overseas.
That leaves Batkovic, who will return to Australia for two weeks before joining the Storm even after her season in Spain is complete.
"Best case scenario is late May," said Donovan. "May 21 (the Storm's opener) is out. May 27 (the second Storm game) is possible.
"Now that it's so late, it's kind of difficult to do anything but that. I'm hopeful that in the future it won't take two weeks for Suzy to turn it around."
Even late, Donovan is very excited to add Batkovic. She was recently quoted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as believing that Batkovic would have been the top pick overall had she been in this year's WNBA Draft. (In 2003, the Storm was able to add Batkovic in the second round because of uncertainty about her future in the WNBA.)
"It's two-fold," Donovan explained. "One is that she can take a lot of the physical banging. She can give it out, she's willing to take it, and she's used to doing it as Lauren (Jackson)'s counterpart in Australia. But the second piece of it, what we're always looking for is the post player that plays opposite (Jackson) better be able to keep their defender on them when they step away from the basket. Last season, we struggled with that. When Kamila (Vodichkova) struggled with her shooting, her man never left Lauren. So it was almost like Lauren was in a constant double-team when she was near the basket. Batkovic has range. She's got beautiful touch on the ball passing to Lauren and she's got the skill already of doing that, and she can shoot it."
"There will be a huge adjustment for her - I think it's a lot harder, more demanding physically, but I think that she'll be fine," said Jackson. "She's a big body and she's strong and she doesn't take any crap - sort of what I was like in my first year in the league.
"She'll get more technical fouls than I did."
While the Storm has already added several international players this off-season, a couple more could eventually be in the mix.
"Very honestly, when some of them finish will determine whether we bring them in," said Donovan. "If they finish May 18, two days is not enough to evaluate. Ö What we see throughout the next couple of weeks (is also important). If we're still feeling like we didn't find it, we might bring someone into camp. I feel like we've got great international talent that we're locked into; it's a matter of getting it off paper and onto the floor."
Adding a couple more players would bring the Storm to as many as 24 players competing for potentially 12 spots, competition that Donovan believes will result in a stronger Storm lineup, particularly in years to come.
"We have so many players competing for limited spots, and yet the ones that stick will be young. Not only does it give us players to develop for the future, but they're players we have the rights to for several seasons, which is very important. After going through last year, I'm not looking to get nine free agents - at the same time, anyway."
A year ago, salary considerations were a key part of Donovan's decision-making process as she finalized the roster. This year, with the departures of a trio of veterans and the additions of several cheaper youngsters, Donovan doesn't anticipate money being a problem.
"I, at the moment, don't see that being a big issue," she said. "Last year, it was constant money-crunching, number-crunching, but this year it seems like with the players we've got, the 24 we're talking about, we can come up with 11 or 12 we're comfortable with. That work has already been done."
Salary concerns or no, Donovan's roster decisions over the next four weeks won't be easy to make. She wouldn't have it any other way.