Veselá Finds her Spot
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | July 26, 2010
At some point during tomorrow's game against the Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm rookie forward Jana Veselá may find herself matched up with reigning league MVP Diana Taurasi. That won't bother Veselá at all. At 6-4, Veselá looks more like a post player - in fact, she's often the tallest player on the floor for the Storm. Yet her experience in Europe, where Veselá is a key player for Spanish champions Ros Casares Valencia and a star on the Czech National Team, is entirely on the perimeter - and she's often defended Taurasi.
"It's so different," said Veselá. "In Europe, I mostly play the three position. I never guard post players. Especially here in this league, post players are so strong. I'm quite soft. It's much more difficult, so I prefer to guard on the perimeter.
"I prefer to defend Diana Taurasi more than Rebekkah Brunson."
At first, that presented a challenge for Storm Head Coach Brian Agler in figuring out how to use Veselá, whom he initially envisioned solidifying the Storm's depth in the post. He's found some answers over the last month, and Veselá has thrived as part of the Storm's eight-player rotation.
The difference, said Agler, has been, "Finding ways to play she and Swin (Cash) together. That was the dilemma early. We wanted her to come in and play the four initially, and she doesn't have a lot of experience with that. It was an easier transition for her to get acclimated to the league playing the three. OK, you're playing the three - now you're playing behind Swin. So we had to find ways to play those two together."
"If I can defend a post player," said Veselá, who's been working on her post defense during practice, "she can defend a guard player. That's been getting me more minutes."
For much of June, Veselá's playing time was spotty. Over the last eight games, however, she's played double-digit minutes each time as she's settled into a regular spot in Agler's rotation.
Veselá's versatility has made the pairing with Cash work. On offense, as a post player her shooting ability spaces the floor and gives Cash more room to operate down low. At the other end of the floor, her size and length are useful for a team that is undersized up front when Lauren Jackson goes to the bench.
At either forward position, Veselá's combination of skills makes her ideal as a complementary player. She has a knack for providing whatever the lineup on the floor requires, be it energy, rebounding, defense, or even some timely buckets.
Veselá wasn't expected to do much scoring; she averaged just 5.0 points as a part-time starter in Euroleague play last year. Despite her limited minutes, she's scored at least seven points in a game four times for the Storm, including 10 big points off the bench on July 6 against New York when the Storm played without Jackson. She's also shooting nearly 70 percent from the field and has made half of her eight three-point attempts.
"I think that has a lot to do with her teammates," Agler said of Veselá's scoring outbursts. "I think her teammates are really trying to give her a lot of confidence. She is turning the ball over at a little bit too high of a rate for us, because she's a skilled player, but she's shooting the ball at a very good percentage. She's an efficient player."
Like the rest of the WNBA, the Storm did not make any moves Monday in advance of the 5:00 p.m. PDT trade deadline. Agler said the Storm was not initiating any trade discussions.
"We're always open, but we're not necessarily pursuing anything right now," he said.
As a whole, the league was relatively quiet before the deadline. The Tulsa Shock sent Alexis Hornbuckle to the Minnesota Lynx on Monday in exchange for forward Rashanda McCants. Tulsa was also involved in the other trade within the past week, which sent Kara Braxton - along with Hornbuckle, the last two remaining Detroit Shock players - to the Mercury to get Nicole Ohlde and a 2011 first-round pick.
Agler pointed out that the number of sellers might be limited because virtually the entire league remains in playoff contention. In fact, the Shock is the only team more than a game out of the playoffs right now, and even Tulsa is just four games back.
From the Storm's perspective, any possible deal would have been weighed not only in terms of the players involved but also its impact on a team that has played well thus far this season.
"You have to consider how it helps your team or could it potentially hurt your team?" said Agler.
It would have been difficult for the Storm to acquire a player who would have bumped one of the existing eight players out of Agler's rotation. He did say recently that he wouldn't mind giving regular minutes to a ninth player, with Ashley Robinson most likely to fill that role. The Storm still has the option of adding a free agent. Though all WNBA player contracts became guaranteed earlier this month, the Storm will have enough cap space to sign a player to the prorated veteran minimum at some point. That would require waiving someone currently on the roster