2008 in Review: Yolanda Griffith
Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | November 22, 2008
Yolanda Griffith was the final piece of the Seattle Storm's puzzle. The Storm signed Griffith on April 8, making her the third All-Star the team added during a busy offseason. Initially, it was unclear exactly how Griffith would fit into the lineup with incumbent starting center Janell Burse. During training camp, however, the Storm learned that Burse would sit the season out to rest, making Griffith the starter.
From the beginning of training camp, Griffith's value as a leader was evident. Like fellow veteran Sheryl Swoopes, Griffith commanded instant respect because of her individual success (highlighted by being named the 1999 WNBA MVP) and what her Monarchs teams had accomplished (culminating in the 2005 WNBA championship).
At 38, Griffith still had plenty of value to offer on the floor. Despite a variety of nagging injuries and a series of hard fouls, Griffith started 30 games and anchored the Storm's defense.
Griffith did not have to wait long for a homecoming in Sacramento, as the Storm played its second preseason game at ARCO Arena. "It was tough," she said. "Sheryl kept getting in my ear making sure I was focused, but once the ball goes up I'm going to represent Seattle."
The season started with Griffith facing off against the league's next big thing at center, rookie Sylvia Fowles. Fowles fouled out of the game after 15 minutes as Griffith demonstrated an ability to draw fouls at both ends of the floor that would help the Storm all season long. In the early going, it was foul trouble of her own that plagued Griffith. Over a six-game stretch, Griffith averaged five fouls, limiting her impact.
Just as Griffith was working past the foul issues, she sprained her left knee in a loss at San Antonio on June 13. Griffith would miss the next two games, both of them Storm losses. It took a couple of weeks for her to get back to full strength, as she would not score double-figures in any of the next six games. After a 10-point, eight-rebound effort on July 10, she grabbed 22 boards over the next two games. On July 25, Griffith scored a season-high 17 points at Phoenix.
The Olympic break came at the right time for Griffith, who got a full month to rest and returned for September reinvigorated. Over the Storm's first six games after the break, Griffith scored double-figures five times, scoring nine points in the other contest. She nearly doubled her three double-digit games over the season's first two-plus months. Before sitting out the Storm's Sept. 12 win over Atlanta and being limited to three minutes on Sept. 14 at Los Angeles to rest for the playoffs, Griffith averaged 12.3 points on 23-of-39 (59.0 percent) shooting during the six-game stretch as the Storm went 4-2.
During the playoffs, Griffith matched up with longtime nemesis Lisa Leslie, the sixth time in eight years the two had squared off in the postseason. Griffith did an excellent job defensively against Leslie, who averaged 12.0 points per game but shot 12-of-31 (38.7 percent) from the field and committed 18 turnovers in the three games. Griffith also had nine steals and four rebounds, though the energy she expended at the defensive end may have played a role in her own poor shooting (3-of-14, 21.4 percent).
At the conclusion of recent seasons, Griffith has talked retirement, and the working assumption much of the year was that 2008 might be her last in the WNBA. When she conducted her exit interview with the media, however, Griffith made it clear she plans to return in 2009 and hopes to go out after winning another championship.
"I'm not announcing my retirement," she said. "I'm going to play another year. You always want to look at different options, but Seattle, I'm comfortable here. I like the team. We trust each other, we care about each other and we have fun. We didn't get the job done like we wanted to."
2008 Photo Gallery
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