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Storm Navigates Free Agency

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  • Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | January 21, 2005
    Last Saturday, the 2005 WNBA free-agent market officially opened for business. As usual, however, there will be nothing free about "free" agency, as teams shell out serious money to either retain their players or add new ones. In the case of the Seattle Storm, coming off of a WNBA Championship, the former will be the primary goal, as the Storm looks to navigate a tight $673,000 salary cap to retain the Championship core.

    "When you have more than one or two great players, it becomes very challenging to keep everybody happy and keep your roster in place," Storm Coach Anne Donovan said last month. "For us, we've got Betty (Lennox) that came off a great season, we've got Sheri (Sam), who's in the experienced part of her career, so she demands a higher salary, and Kamila (Vodichkova) in the same boat, so it's tough. It's tough to get everybody you want under that cap."


    Finals MVP Lennox is one of nine Storm free agents.
    Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty
    Less than four months before training camp, the Storm has but two players, Olympian Sue Bird and second-year forward Trina Frierson, under contract. That leaves nine free agents - the 12th player on the Storm's 2004 roster, second-year guard Michelle Greco, is a reserved player - and plenty of questions to be answered over the next few weeks.

    Teams could begin negotiating with free agents Saturday, though there is a two-week quiet period during which the only contracts that can be signed are when restricted or reserved players accept qualifying offers. Starting February 1, however, teams may begin signing unrestricted or restricted free agents, their own or others.

    The Storm has six restricted free agents - Lennox, Vodichkova, Alicia Thompson, Lauren Jackson, Janell Burse and Simone Edwards. Because they are restricted, the Storm has the right to match any offer sheet these players sign with another team. To earn that right of first refusal, the Storm had to issue each player a one-year qualifying offer based on their 2004 salary. The players have the option of accepting that qualifying offer and returning to the Storm for another year if they so choose, or may sign a better or longer deal with the Storm in addition to their ability to sign an offer sheet elsewhere.

    Having the ability to match an offer does not necessarily mean the Storm would realistically be able to, because of the salary cap. If another team offers a Storm free agent a surprisingly large offer, Seattle may be unable to match it and bring back other key players while staying under the cap. Alternatively, the Storm might match but be unable to sign other free agents.

    "I think players are eager to test the waters and see what free agency means for them," said Donovan. "I'm hoping it doesn't mean a lot in Seattle, but I think the reality is that we have quite a few free agents and we'll experience that Collective Bargaining Agreement. We'll experience that first-hand in the players' ability to move around a little bit."

    The Storm's unrestricted free agents - guard Tully Bevilaqua and forwards Adia Barnes and Sheri Sam - have the ability to sign with another team with no compensation or recourse for the Storm.

    Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times reported Friday that five teams are in negotiations with Sam, hurting the chances of her returning to Seattle.

    As for Greco, because the Storm issued her a qualifying offer, she may only negotiate with the Storm.

    League-wide, free agency is expected to be a much bigger factor than it was last year, with a number of quality players on the market and several teams considering shaking up their roster.

    "I was reading (John) Whisenant's comments today online and he's talking about Yolanda Griffith potentially moving," said Donovan. "Any time you have both parties, player and management, talking about movement of that caliber of a player, I think what we're predicting will probably happen with several players."

    Since then, Griffith is one of several players league-wide who have been designated as Core Players by their teams, taking them off the market. (The Storm did not core any players because doing so would guarantee them the maximum salary. MVP Jackson is likely to command that kind of salary, but the Storm already has the option of matching any deals she is offered and decided to save the Core Player designation instead of applying it to Jackson.)

    While the free agent pool doesn't have the big names it might have without Core Player designations, there are still many quality players available. Sacramento forward Tangela Smith headlines the list of unrestricted free agents, a group which also includes 2004 co-Most Improved Player Wendy Palmer. Outside of the Storm's players, the Monarchs other starting forward, DeMya Walker, is the top restricted free agent available.

    After coming to Seattle to receive the Seattle P-I Sports Star Award, Donovan left for Australia yesterday with Storm Chief Operating Officer Karen Bryant. While Down Under, Bryant and Donovan will check on Jackson's rehab progress and begin contract talks with her and Bevilaqua.

    2005 Storm Status Report

    PLAYER
    POS
    EXP
    STATUS
    Adia Barnes
    F
    7
    Unrestricted Free Agent
    Tully Bevilaqua
    G
    6
    Unrestricted Free Agent
    Sue Bird
    G
    3
    Signed for 2005
    Janell Burse
    C
    4
    Restricted Free Agent
    Simone Edwards
    F/C
    5
    Restricted Free Agent
    Trina Frierson
    F
    1
    Signed for 2005
    Michelle Greco
    G
    1
    Reserved Player
    Lauren Jackson
    F
    4
    Restricted Free Agent
    Betty Lennox
    G
    5
    Restricted Free Agent
    Sheri Sam
    F
    6
    Unrestricted Free Agent
    Alicia Thompson
    F
    5
    Restricted Free Agent
    Kamila Vodichkova
    C
    5
    Restricted Free Agent

    Storm News Archive