Free-Agent Market Opens Monday
Despite all the important dates during the holiday season, it has been next Monday that has been circled on the calendar of Seattle Storm Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel Brian Agler and those of his peers throughout the league. That's when WNBA teams will be able to begin signing free agents to contracts, as well as the opening of the trade market.
With the three-week negotiating period nearly complete, Agler's vision for the 2009 Seattle Storm has become clearer. He anticipates the Storm being active starting early.
One of the biggest pieces to the Storm's puzzle, naturally, is two-time MVP forward Lauren Jackson. The unrestricted free agent told the Daily Telegraph in her native Australia that she planned to be patient in deciding both if she will play in the WNBA in 2009 and whether she will re-sign with the Storm or look elsewhere. That matches what Jackson has told Agler.
"I think, in all honesty, she's taking her time," he said. "I'm sure it's for a good reason and we totally respect that. I think everybody understands our great desire to have Lauren back in Seattle. I think everybody understands and she's communicated to me and to her teammates and to the public how much she enjoys Seattle and she enjoys her team.
"She's started a great legacy in Seattle. It's one that is probably matched by a select few or maybe no one else, what she has accomplished in a few short years. It would be great to see her continue and wrap things up career-wise in Seattle and really put a great stamp on her legacy."
On the first day teams could begin negotiating with free agents, Agler was in Moscow, where he met with both Jackson and teammate Sue Bird (who is under contract) as well as center Janell Burse, whose rights are exclusively owned by the Storm after she sat out the 2008 season. Agler saw Bird and Jackson play well in a blowout Euroleague win over Lattes Montpellier. He also took in another Euroleague game featuring rival CSKA Moscow, as well as watching Burse's Dynamo Moscow squad practice.
"It was good to see (Bird and Jackson)," Agler said. "I feel like I have good relationships with both of them and it was just good to see them play. It was great to see Lauren back on the floor healthy. It's always great to see Sue play and I love the way she plays the game. Lauren being close to 100 percent and being active and alive on the floor, the type of player that she was, it was good. For myself, it was good to see them in person.
"I had a good conversation with Janell and I feel real optimistic about Janell being back in Seattle this summer."
Last February the Storm announced the acquisition via a sign-and-trade of forward Swin Cash on the first day of free agency, one of several high-profile moves in rapid succession. In part because the timeline on free agency has been moved forward, the WNBA as a whole may not quite be as busy in the early going this year.
"I'm sure with the number of free agents, one, and with Houston folding and the amount of free agents that were on their team, there's going to be some activity now," said Agler. "Will it have a trickle-down effect? There's no question. I think a lot of teams will go after a few players early. Those players will make decisions and then it goes from there."