When Katie Smith last chatted with WNBA.com she had just returned from an overseas envoy that conducted clinics and scrimmages in India. While she undoubtedly found ways to stay busy during the offseason, she also finds herself moving from coast to coast after a trade between the Mystics and Storm sent Smith to Seattle. See what she has to say about the recent trade, her thoughts on the upcoming season and the Stormís chances of repeating as champions in 2011.
WNBA.com: Youíve obviously played in Seattle a number of times in your career, so you know just how rabid that fanbase can be, but now theyíre going to be behind you instead of against you. How does that translate?
|Katie Smith brings 13 years of experience and two championships to the Storm|
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Katie Smith: Iím excited. Iíve always enjoyed coming here and playing and their fanbase is, you know, great. They come out in huge numbers to support the ownership group and organization and they really take care of things and work hard at what they do. So Iím really excited. Obviously I have a lot of familiarity here too, not just with coaches but with players and people who have been in the league for a while and people I have played with and against. Itís going to be a great fit and hopefully Iíll be able to contribute what I need to and help the team win.
WNBA.com: Youíre one of those few players this offseason who finds themselves in the enviable position of joining ranks with a championship team. Having played against the Storm last season and now playing with them, what is your overall perception of the teamís ability to repeat as champions?
KS: Itís always harder. Obviously as a repeater itís always tough but thereís no reason why we couldnít do it. Thereís a handful of teams that right now are sitting there and thinking, ĎHey we can win this right nowí and thatís the truth. But I think with the veteran leadership, the coaching, the way defense is a priority and itís something that you bring every night, youíre always going to have a chance to win. You got people who can score so itís possible, but weíre going to have to come out every night and prove it. When we were in Detroit we got back to the Finals right after we won it and couldnít quite pull it off, but even to get back to that place is tough because everyone wants to knock you off. The pieces are here. The mental toughness is here with the players and coaches. You just have to go out every night and take care of business and this yearís going to be such a challenge. Everybody got better.
WNBA.com: They got better, but at the same time the championship team is still more or less intact. Coach Brian Agler said earlier in the offseason that his goal was to lock up that same starting five. Knowing that you were coming into that team though with no apparent vacancy, have you considered that it might be a sixth-woman role? Have you spoken to Coach Agler about it yet?
KS: I havenít talked to him in that sense. Heís going to play me wherever, in multiple spots and different situations. Heís going to use what I bring: defense, scoring, whatever I can offer. Specifics by starting or not starting or whatever Ė I know Iím going to play. And thatís the bottom line. I am going to prepare myself and be ready to go no matter what it is. I donít think I need him to say, ĎHey this is your role.í I mean, my role is heís going to use me. And every gameís going to be different and every game youíre going to go out there and do your job and whatís asked of you. In terms of minutes and coming off the bench or not coming off the bench, that stuff will all take care of itself as we get going.
WNBA.com: Being in the Eastern Conference last season, you didnít have a ton of opportunities to play against the Storm. But in the times you did and then just watching that starting five throughout the playoff run, whatís so powerful about this team?
KS: Well they have a lot of threats. You have bigs, guards, Swin who can post and rebound, Tanisha who plays great defense but hits clutch shots. People coming off the bench who give you energy, but the thing is that even though theyíre down in a lot of games, they donít panic, they understand that theyíre going to get rolling when it comes to offense and, as they say, Brian kind of hangs his hat on defense. Theyíre always going to go out there, theyíre going to guard and challenge. I think they have a lot of the pieces and that confidence that they have people that can make plays when that time comes.
WNBA.com: Having already won two championships with the Shock in 2006 and 2008, how anxious are you to get back to the Finals to win another one?
KS: Iím actually anxious for the season, Iím anxious for Game 1. Iím anxious to see how we put this thing together in training camp and to just go out there and compete and see how we can improve throughout the season. And then when it gets to the playoffs, you know take care of business during the regular season, but the playoffs is a whole new season so Iím not really thinking about that. If we feel good about what weíre doing every single game then weíll be where we want to be in the end. Iím just anxious to lace them up with this group. You know, you have some familiarity but Iím not on the floor yet. You have to learn the offense and get out there and they have to learn me and I have to learn them. Itís going to be fun, but thereís a learning curve too where you have to get in there and get those reps.
WNBA.com: The Eastern Conference was a tight race last year, but the competition in the west strongly favored the Storm. Do you see the competition getting a little tougher this season? Whoís really a threat outside of Seattle?
KS: I think the west got stronger. Last year was just a weird year, but yeah in the east it was like every game someone was dropping down, and thatís usually how the west was. I think L.A. will be solid. [Candace] Parkerís healthy and they have their crew back pretty much but having Candace for the whole year, hopefully if she stays healthy, will be huge. Phoenix, theyíll be there. I think Minnesota will be tough. San Antonio is always going to be solid. Itís going to be fun. I donít think itís going to be what it was last year in the sense where Seattle is going to be up here. I still hope that weíre at the top, but I think itís going to be a lot tougher throughout the Western Conference. Itíll make for some interesting games.
WNBA.com: Iím interested in your perspective on the Mystics now. With you and Lindsey [Harding] leaving and Monique [Currie] most likely out for the entire season, itís going to be a very different looking Mystics team. Why should teams still be concerned about what they have going on there?
KS: They got some pieces, they got some bigs and they definitely added some youth and players that can do down there and bang. Alana [Beard] is obviously coming back. I mean, sheís always going to bring [it]. Sheís such a talented player and this is also an opportunity for Marissa Coleman and Matee Ajavon to get out there and get a lot of minutes and reps and really show what they can do. You have Jasmine Thomas, whoís a young point guard and brings a lot of energy. So they have pieces and theyíre going to be a team that gets up and down and run and use that athleticism. I see them getting in there and being in games. They pride themselves on defense and then they want to get out there and run. So I think they have some pieces to really build upon, but I think they got stronger in the post and I think itíll give an opportunity for some of these guards to really, now, have a lot of minutes to show what they can do and get in that groove.
WNBA.com: Now here you are, less than a month away from starting your 14th season. What keeps you going?
KS: Competing. I want to win. Itís about finding a way to win, still competitive and still wanting to win. Every night is just finding a way Ė it could be ugly, it could be a good pick or whatever it is Ė to just find a way to end up winning the basketball game and then hopefully if youíre there you have a chance to compete for a championship. Thatís my motivation, to still get out there and compete and show what you can do and that you still can do what you want to do.