Stay Connected with the Seattle Storm Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram StormWatch
  • Print

Experience Could be Key for Storm

RELATED CONTENT
Storm Playoffs Homepage
Storm Taking Motivation From Doubters
StormTracker: Cash Not Likely to Play Game 1
Get Storm Headlines!
Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | September 18, 2008
When Seattle Storm Head Coach Brian Agler, in his role as the team's director of player personnel, set to work rebuilding the Storm's roster around stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, the playoffs were a big part of that thought process. In bringing veterans and WNBA champions Swin Cash, Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes to Seattle, Agler not only improved the team's talent but also added veteran leadership and the experience of players who have seen it all, invaluable in the postseason.

"I think that's one of the reasons that Brian put this team together like this," said Cash. "When it comes to playoff time, having people that are experienced and have been there to really help the younger guys get over their mistakes really fast is going to be important."


"When it comes to playoff time, having people that are experienced and have been there is going to be important."
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images
Experience is no substitute for talent, and a lack of it doesn't necessarily doom young teams. Stars Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi led Phoenix to last year's WNBA championship in their first postseason appearance, while the 2004 Storm had relatively little playoff history before winning the championship. Still, the presence provided by veterans can be crucial, especially when something goes wrong - which inevitably will happen.

Three years ago, the Storm saw the value of experience in the postseason first-hand. Even though the 2005 team was looking to defend the WNBA championship, it was still a young Storm squad that featured three rookies playing key roles and several other newcomers. In the first round, the Storm faced a Houston Comets squad led by four-time champions Swoopes, Janeth Arcain and Tina Thompson as well as legendary point guard Dawn Staley.

The Storm stole Game 1 in Houston, giving the Comets no margin for error and seemingly all but ending the series. Only once before in WNBA history had a team lost Game 1 of a best-of-three series at home and rallied to win the next two on the road. Yet that's just what Houston did, pulling out a nailbiter in Game 2 and then stunning the Storm with a blowout in the winner-take-all Game 3 as Swoopes put up a triple-double.

"Because we had veteran players and we had players that had been there before, we refused to lose," Swoopes recalled. "Knowing we had to come here and we had to win two to keep playing, we just come out and really focused on what we had to do. We knew the things that we did wrong at home and we knew why we lost."

In 2005, the Storm's top eight rotation players had a combined 49 games of playoff experience. This year's team blows that mark out of the water. Griffith alone has played 39 career playoff games, tied for fourth amongst all players in this year's playoffs. Swoopes (32) and Cash (31) are also amongst the 13 players league-wide with 30 or more playoff games to their credit. Even with Jackson (18 games) unavailable, his year's eight-player rotation has combined to play 138 playoff games. That ranks the Storm third in the league, behind Detroit (187 games) and San Antonio (162 games).

"I think it's an advantage to have," Agler says of his team's experience. "I think it also helps you during the course of the year when you go through tough times or are on the roller coaster a little bit, which all teams go through. I just know that if you're going to be a playoff team in the WNBA, you've got to have veteran players."

Indeed, the Storm's leadership and experience has already been key during a 22-12 regular season that saw the Storm battle adversity time and again, whether in terms of the ability to come back in games (the team rallied from double-figure deficits five times) or in the form of playing without Jackson and several other starters who have dealt with injuries during the second half of the season.

"I think it's a credit to the leadership we have on this team," said Cash of the team's resiliency. "We don't have just one or two people. Sue and Lauren are captains, but I think Yo has been a focal point. She's very underestimated as far as her leadership people. Sometimes people think that leaders have to be the ones who score the ball all the time, but she really sets the tone for this team defensively."

STORM-SPARKS
Game 1 is tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. with live coverage on NBA TV and a replay at 11 p.m. on FSN. Don't miss storm.wnba.com's special road Live From Press Row from courtside. Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. at KeyArena. Get your tickets now!
"I think we've got a number of good leaders on our team," agreed Agler. "We have individuals that show their leadership through their work ethic, we have people that show their leadership through their communication, people that show their leadership through the ability to make others better."

The Storm's experience could come into play against Los Angeles, the most inexperienced team in the postseason in the Western Conference. Stars Lisa Leslie (40 games) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (32) are no strangers to the playoffs, having anchored the Sparks teams that won consecutive championships in 2001 and 2002. However, the other three L.A. starters - including rookies Shannon Bobbitt and Candace Parker - have just five combined games of playoff experience.

"With L.A., they are a veteran team," said Swoopes, "but at the same time I think I still feel like they lack a little bit of experience where we have, I feel like, more experience as far as veteran players and players who have been there before and players that understand what it takes to get to the next level."

With eight championship rings between Bird (1), Cash (2), Griffith (1) and Swoopes (4), the Storm has been to that next level before - repeatedly. Now, the expectation is that history will help the Storm reach that level once again.

Experience by the Numbers

WNBA PLAYOFF EXPERIENCE
Year
Start
Rot
Detroit
144
187
San Antonio
108
162
Storm
100
138
Sacramento
95
134
Indiana
86
107
Connecticut
92
105
Los Angeles
77
94
New York
22
35
Start - total career playoff games for projected starting five
Rot - total career playoff games for projected eight-player rotation
STORM EXPERIENCE
Year
Start
Rot
2002
6
8
2004
15
24
2005
42
49
2006
57
74
2007
57
75
2008
100
138
MOST EXPERIENCED PLAYERS
Player
Tm
G
Vickie Johnson
SAS
41
Lisa Leslie
LAS
40
Tamika Whitmore
CON
40
Yolanda Griffith
SEA
39
Becky Hammon
SAS
39
Ticha Penicheiro
SAC
38
Deanna Nolan
DET
34
Elaine Powell
DET
33