10 Big Games in 2009
What's the first thing you do when you see the Seattle Storm's schedule for a new season? If you're anything like me, you start circling - mentally if not physically - the biggest matchups of the year. Here's 10 big games that stand out to me, eight of them right here at KeyArena.
June 6 at Sacramento
For the first time since 2003, the Storm will open its schedule on the road, playing at Sacramento. The Storm and Monarchs are the lone Western Conference teams to make the playoffs each of the last five seasons, so even the opening game of the season could end up having postseason implications. Expect a loud crowd at ARCO Arena, which has always been a tough place for the Storm to win.
June 7 vs. Sacramento
After playing Saturday afternoon in Sacramento, both teams will fly to Seattle for a rematch a day later at KeyArena on Storm Opening Night. The home-court advantage will be reversed with one of the largest crowds of the season at the Key. The Storm has won Opening Night three straight years and four times in the last five seasons and will look to continue that tradition.
June 26 vs. Los Angeles
The Storm and Sparks face off for the first time since L.A.'s 2-1 series victory in the 2008 Playoffs for the Storm's third home game of the young season. Playoff matchups - two in the last three seasons - have only intensified one of the WNBA's best rivalries. That makes visits by the Sparks to KeyArena highlights of any season.
July 7 vs. San Antonio
The defending Western Conference champs will be the Storm's opponent for the annual Kids Day at KeyArena. Home court was crucial in the series with the Silver Stars last year, with the home team winning all three games - including a Storm blowout win in Seattle. This time, the Storm will be backed by thousands of screaming youngsters in battling Becky Hammon, Sophia Young, Ann Wauters and company.
July 15 vs. Detroit
The defending WNBA champions make their lone trip to the Pacific Northwest on July 15. Winnings of two of the last three championships and three since 2003, the Detroit Shock is unlikely to fall out of contention any time soon. There's also an added element of intrigue to these always-entertaining matchups since Swin Cash was traded from Detroit to the Storm.
July 22 vs. Los Angeles
The Storm wraps up the first half of the season with another matchup against the Sparks. It will be the third of four meetings between the two teams, with the last game of the season series coming Aug. 6 at the STAPLES Center. With MVP Candace Parker, Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton-Jones in place, the Sparks will again contend to add another championship to the team's back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002.
Aug. 27 vs. Connecticut
The annual rematch of the 2004 WNBA Finals at the Key will take place in late August, as the Connecticut Sun visits during a West Coast swing. Behind MVP candidate Lindsay Whalen, the Sun posted the East's second-best record in 2008 and Head Coach Mike Thibault will strengthen his team again during the offseason as Connecticut goes for a seventh straight playoff appearance.
Aug. 29 vs. Atlanta
The Dream suffered through a rough inaugural season, but the payoff for patience could come quickly. Atlanta added post Sancho Lyttle in the Houston Comets Dispersal Draft and won last week's WNBA Draft Lottery, earning the chance to make the No. 1 pick next spring. On top of that, yesterday the Dream acquired the rights to former WNBA All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw in exchange for the 13th pick in the draft (via San Antonio). Add all that talent to a core including former Storm wings Betty Lennox and Iziane Castro Marques and Atlanta is sure to be much improved in 2009.
STORM SEASON TICKETS
The Storm concludes its home schedule by playing the Phoenix Mercury on Fan Appreciation Night. The defending champs missed the postseason in 2008, but hope to bounce back in 2009 by building around the core of Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter. The Storm won three out of four matchups in 2008, and with the Mercury's up-tempo style, all four were highly entertaining.
Sep. 12 at San Antonio
For the second straight season, the Storm will go on the road to wrap up the 2009 regular-season schedule. Again, there's the chance that the game could be a preview of a postseason matchup, as was the case when the Storm played the Sparks to end the regular season and again in the playoffs. The AT&T Center has been a tough venue for the Storm of late, the team having lost its last five trips to San Antonio and last winning there in August 2005.