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The Locke Blog: May 2006 Archive

Storm play-by-play broadcaster David Locke shares his thoughts on the Storm from an insider's perspective. Click here for the latest blogs.

Posts Preview
Posted on May 17, 10 p.m.


Sometimes I still wonder if we realize what we have as Storm fans in Lauren Jackson.

Truthfully envy is the emotion in the world. You can always find a car you wish you had or a house you wish you had. Fill in the blank - it works with most things in life.

That is, unless you are a Seattle Storm basketball fan and you are talking about LJ. Lozza is the best in the world. If we took everyone off their rosters and re-drafted the league she would be the first pick every time. There is no other scenario.

You can even take it a step further. If we took every player in the history of the WNBA and put them in their prime and re-drafted, LJ would be the #1 pick again. Sorry Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie, you are both insanely brilliant and it will be a pleasure to watch you at Key Arena this week, but it is true.

What strikes me about the above concept is that you would be taking every player in their prime and LJ would be the #1 pick. Yet, in fairness, you would probably have to take the 2008 version of LJ to really get her in her prime.

Last year Loz averaged 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks and some people thought she might have had an off-year by her standards. That “off-year” left her #2 in points per game, #2 in rebounds, #4 in blocks, #1 in double doubles and #2 in offensive rebounds.

Quite simply the best in the world. More with LJ in the audio blog. She blocks my shot in this interview.

If it weren’t for some very mysterious voting in the WNBA MVP voting, she would have won the MVP in an “off-year.”

On practice on Tuesday LJ, came off a baseline pick, streaking like a gazelle, curled the route at 13 feet, caught the pass and immediately turned and in mid-air squared her shoulders, nailing a perfect jumper.

It was regular for LJ. It was unfathomable when you stopped for a moment and realized she is 6-5. It would be an NBA 7-footer making a play like Reggie Miller.

LJ is not seeing is believing. She really is seeing makes it unbelievable.

Please let’s all make sure we don’t miss how gifted we are to watch the best in the world every night in the WNBA at Key Arena.

The complement of players around Lozza this season will be a nice trinity. Janell Burse is coming off the best season of her career, doubling her points and rebounds per game. Before her shoulder injury sidelined her for the last portion of training camp, JB looked even better than last season.

Last year, Burse improved her post moves and started finishing around the hoop. Her shooting percentage sky rocketed from 43% to 52%. This year she seems to have added a consistent 15-foot jumper. In addition, she has added more post moves.

The combination of JB’s improved development and the defense's attention to LJ make another substantial jump in JB’s game a distinct possibility.

Where would JB tell you to take a vacation and why plus more on the audio blog.

In the off-season, the Storm added one of the few 10-year veterans in the WNBA with the signing of Wendy Palmer. Despite being in her 30s, Palmer is still playing at the top of her game. Kevin Pelton has documented that Palmer is coming off one of the best seasons of her career.

Find out about Wendy’s shopping habits and car fetish with the audio blog.

The final post spot in the post is unknown as I write this on Wednesday. Simone Edwards gives the coaches comfort in knowledge that she will execute the game plan. Tiffani Johnson comes to camp with a refined body and a nice touch on her jumper. Neither of them has been able to separate themselves from the pack as the fourth post.

Simone will give you a good laugh in this audio blog.

Small Forwards Preview
Posted on May 16, 6 p.m.


For the 2006 Seattle Storm, the largest area of improvement from last season is going to be at the small forward position. Last year, the Storm never fully replaced all the elements of Sheri Sam’s game.

This year’s small forward is marked by amazing versatility. I fully anticipate at any time one of four different players will play the small forward and all of them fill a different role. Those four are Izi Castro Marques, Barbara Turner, Shaunzinski Gortman and Tanisha Wright.

The trick will be for Anne Donovan to figure out how to keep players in their roles and how to maximize each player with limited minutes available.

The returning starter is Izi. Over the second half of last season, Izi improved greatly, shooting 42% from the field and 41% from 3. Improvement will likely be the theme of the season for the Brazilian with another year under her belt in the WNBA. As she better understands her own strengths and weaknesses she will become a better and better player.

Today at practice on three different occasions she used her lightening speed to accelerate off the dribble and drive by her defender for a layup. This is a necessary addition to her game. In addition, playing another year with Sue, Izi can really prosper running the floor on the wings.

Turner has been the highlight of training camp. Her athleticism and skills set wow me every time I see her. The most impressive part of her game is her consistent activity and tenacity. Kevin Pelton touched on this in his profile of Barbara.

For more on the rookie, check the audio blog about her strength and weakness and off the court fun stuff.

As a rookie, Turner will have her ups and downs. In fact, we have already seen them in the preseason. The first area she must address is defending on the perimeter. In this week’s StormCast, Anne talks about how she is playing small on the outside.

Her offensive game will come around. She will score with hustle. In addition, she has a nice rhythm jump shot and a very strong back-to-the-basket game from her post play at UConn.

While Gortman and Wright are both guards, both of them have played small forward in practice. My guess is Gortman spends a lot of time as the defensive stopper against the numerous great scoring wing players in the WNBA. This is a position the Storm desperately needed last season and Gortman will be able to defend any perimeter position.

Another lineup we have seen at times is Sue, Betty and Tanisha on the floor. Also, we have seen Betty with both Tanisha and Gortman on the floor. Tanisha is becoming more and more comfortable playing the point guard.

This group will allow Anne to find an answer to what ever she challenge confronts her. Moreover, it will produce the crooked numbers you need from the small forward position in terms of rebounds, assists and steals.

Guards Preview
Posted on May 15, 9 p.m.


The women’s college game is often dominated by the guards. In the WNBA it has been the stars that carried the day. However, that may be changing with the advent of the 24-second clock this season in the WNBA.

Decision-making and one-on-one play are going to be accentuated with the shorter clock. This is good news for the Storm. There is no better decision maker in the WNBA than Sue Bird. Awareness and smarts are two of the top characteristics of Bird’s game and they will be tested as the clock winds down on possessions. The shorter clock may force Bird, an amazing shooter (44% from the field and 43% from 3 last season), to take more shots. Kevin Pelton's feature today offers more on Sue's declining shot attempts and how Anne Donovan would like to see that change this season.

Click here for more on Sue and her Russian travels in the Audio Blog.

As the league’s leader in assists last season, Bird also demonstrated the ability to find the right player in the right opportunity. This skill will be even more vital with the shorter clock.

When all else fails, it is time to call “Fire” and clear out for Betty Lennox. Fear not because of Betty’s poor preseason shooting. We have seen this act before, In 2004, Betty shot 4-for-20 and scored nine points in three preseason games. In the first two regular-season games she had 38 points and 15 rebounds.

Again Lennox’s game is going to be put on display with the shot-clock reduction. During camp the Storm at times went to a play called “Fire” where when the clock gets low they clear out a side for Betty Basketball and let her go to work.

Last season, the WNBA Finals MVP actually improved statistically in 2005, averaging 12 points a game and shooting an improved 31% from 3. For Lennox, the key this season will be finding that edge that makes her unique. For a period last season Betty was more tranquil and that is not what makes Betty great.

For more on Betty, her expansive CD collection and hyperactivity, click here.

The backup point guard role was more closely scrutinized than any battle during camp. The most unlikely candidate won the job in Shaunzinski Gortman. Anne Donovan has always been a Gortman fan. In fact, she tried to trade for Gortman when she was in Minnesota. In the off-season, Donovan had the vision of the long-limbed, lanky Gortman as the perfect compliment to Bird.

While Gortman is not a natural point guard, she has continued to make great decisions throughout camp. Her natural knack for how the game flows will be in valuable. At South Carolina she averaged 13 points and 6 rebounds a game as a senior as an All-SEC performer.

Since entering the WNBA, Gortman has been asked to be a defensive stopper rather than an offensive player. At 5-10, she has the ability to guard all three perimeter positions and will do so for the Storm this season.

For more on Shaunzinski Gortman, hear her evaluate her own strengths and weaknesses in the Audio Blog.

Most of last year’s struggles came on the defensive end. The change from Tully Bevilaqua and Adia Barnes to Francesca Zara and Chelle Thompson had a lot do with that change.

This season, Gortman will bring the defensive mentality off the bench that was lacking. In fact, the combination of Gortman, Tanisha Wright and Barbara Turner could give the Storm an exciting defensive team. (Something Anne alludes to in this week’s StormCast.)

Lastly, Tanisha Wright rejoins the backcourt with a year of experience under her belt. T really shined last year when Lennox was out with the wrist injury as a starter. She brought a defensive intensity and when teams dropped off, she was able to exploit them with her offensive game. As a three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, the defense wasn’t surprising, but she definitely gained confidence on the offensive end. Wright averaged 7 points a game as a starter and we talked about her improved confidence and her shoe collection in this audio blog.

Point guard is not Wright’s natural position and it often takes away from her natural aggressiveness when she runs the point. Nonetheless, she will be asked to take point guard minutes this season and has shown the ability to handle the task.

Last season, Wright took just one 3-point shot all season. She has attempted to add that to her arsenal this season. It has been inconsistent in training camp, but if she can start to make defenders honor her jumper she will become a scorer at this level as well.

Strange Feeling
Posted on May 12, 4 p.m.


Today is a really strange day for me. The Storm is playing and I am not there. It happens every year during the preseason, but it doesn’t make it any less weird.

The Storm plays back to back games tonight and tomorrow against the Minnesota Lynx. Post-play will be significant each night. Tonight, the Storm is expected to be without their regular starters with Janell and LJ out with injuries. Tonight may go very far in deciding who makes the team.

Tomorrow will also highlight the post play because Anne Donovan needs to see how Tiffani Johnson will compliment the play of LJ and Wendy Palmer.

Since we won’t be able to see the game and our correspondence will be limited, I will be looking for a few things out of the box score. The first is the amount of turnovers. I always feel that is a good early season indicator of how the team is jelling.

Another one to watch is first and third quarter scores. Most of the starters will be on the floor for those minutes and it is a good gauge on how the team is playing.

The last one I will check I think will be fun all season long. This is a team that will not have an energy crisis. I look for Tanisha Wright, Shaunzinski Gortman and Barbara Turner to bring a jolt to each and every game. Points will be a bonus, but out of that group I hope we can get eight rebounds, a few steals and a fast-break bucket or two. Izi Castro Marques may have to be added to the Jolt Squad.

Today’s audio blog is a get to know you with Shaunzinski Gortman.

Observations
Posted on May 10, 11 a.m.


Sue Bird is terrific. Obviously this is not earth shattering news to any Storm fan. However, this blog is about my impressions, my thoughts and what I have seen and Sue Bird is terrific is the #1 thought I have had the last three times I have seen the Storm.

In practice, Sue is in such remarkable control of everything that is taking place - conducting, directing and orchestrating every movement on the floor. She moves players to the correct spot so that the floor balance will switch and then she makes the appropriate pass. She seems to always be one step ahead of the play.

If Bird has a weakness, it is that she is not a vocal leader. It is out of her comfort zone. Her strength is keeping everything on the correct keel by example and by controlling the game. The addition of Wendy Palmer allows Sue to stay in her comfort zone.

A good example happened on practice on Tuesday. Things got sloppy and Wendy sensed Anne Donovan’s frustration and took the initiative to stop practice and bring all the players together. What a huge move by Wendy. It is exactly what the team needs. This is not something Sue would be likely to do. However, once everyone was together, Sue took a large role in the discussion of how practice was going and what needed to be done. It is why Wendy is the perfect complement to Sue and Lauren Jackson.

This is a great sign for Storm fans. Today’s audio blog is two minutes with Sue Bird talking things other than basketball.

Here are some other observations from practice the last few days:

  • It has been talked about a lot, but it is worth mentioning that Tiffani Johnson looks terrific physically. Her weight loss is noticeable in her actions on the floor. She has a nice jump to her step. She is quick and she is getting nice lift on her post moves. It was interesting talking to Johnson for our StormCast interview about her weight loss and mindset.

  • Izi Castro Marques has had fantastic energy since arriving from Brazil. Coach Donovan was worried about what type of physical condition Izi would arrive in, but as Donovan says, “She looks like she could go forever.” In addition, her 3 was really falling in practice. Izi credits it to running on the beach and running in the water on the beach. We would all like that as a training site.

  • It will be interesting to see how much the energy players like Barbara Turner and Tanisha Wright rub off on Izi this season.

  • Watching Anne coach is the highlight of every practice. At one point she worked with Betty Lennox on an angle she was taking and explained you are getting in this habit and it is fine now, but at some point someone is going to make you pay. I have no doubt she is right. It is amazing what she sees and how she is able to foreshadow.

  • We have seen the impact of the 24 second clock in a new offensive set called “Fire.” When the clock hits a certain number if they can get to “Fire,” they go to a 1 on 1 isolation game and let the player, often Betty Basketball, try to simply create. We talked about the impact of the 24 second clock in this week’s edition of StormCast.

  • On Tuesday, last year’s starting line-up was back together on the floor, expect for Janell Burse who was out with the shoulder injury.

  • You could never imagine what a perfectionist Lauren is each day in practice, but I guess that is how you become the best player in the world.

    Storm Dominates Preseason Opener
    Posted on May 7, 11 p.m.


    That is what we call domination. The Liberty are really short on talent this year due to free agency and international defections and the Storm did a great job taking advantage of that.

    The first thing that jumps out at me is how far ahead Seattle this year from last year. In retrospect, last year really was a rebuilding campaign. The Storm played five inexperienced players and this year Barbara Turner will be the only one. The team looks together. The roles are already defined. The rotation is close to established.

    Speaking of rotation, the versatility that Anne Donovan will have with this year’s club is fantastic. Shaunzinski Gortman brings an element that the Storm have never had with the ability to play all three wing positions and, more importantly, defend all three wing positions.

    If this year’s slogan is Seeing is Believing, tonight would be "seeing is a good reminder." In other words, we were reminded what fantastic players Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson are. Over the off-season it is easy to forget how great they are. Tonight was the reminder.

    The new 24-second clock may put an increased onus on Bird and that can only be a good thing for Seattle. There aren’t many teams that have a point guard with the offensive capability of Bird. There aren’t a lot of players in the league that can just beat someone to get their own shot and those players that can will be incredibly valuable.

    Defensively, the Storm was much improved, but it will take some time before we can tell how much of that was the Storm and how much was the Liberty's lack of talent.

    One of our new features this year as part of the expanded coverage at storm.wnba.com is that Elise Woodward and I will record a postgame audio recap after each game this season. Check out our first edition after tonight's game.

    The Development of JB
    Posted on May 5, 8 p.m.


    At times during training camp, Janell Burse has been the best player on the floor. Calling her dominant might be too much, but describing her as a force would be underselling her play. It is just another reason why this year’s training camp feels so good. More on that in today’s audio blog.

    Last season, Burse should have won the league’s Most Improved Player. Instead, a former #3 pick of the draft, Nicole Powell of Sacramento, won. She should have won the most misused award by Charlotte, her original team, but that is a sidenote.

    How do you respond to being edged out as the Most Improved Player? How about winning it the next year? Thus far in camp, Burse looks like she is on the verge of taking another jump in her career. Another sidenote - this is not unprecedented with a post player. Check out the two jumps Michelle Snow's game has made over the past three seasons.

    Last season, Burse's shooting percentage went up nearly 10%. That is unfathomable. Her points per game doubled and her rebounds nearly did the same. Most importantly, she started all 34 games for the team.

    The change in Burse’s game came from her work with Head Coach Anne Donovan. She simplified her post moves. She became increasingly more confident with each outing. Most impressively, the league adapted to her game midway through the year and then she altered her approach in the post to counter how the defense was playing her.

    This year, Burse has looked even better. Her play may be the key to the season. With Lauren Jackson limited in her minutes per game due to her problematic shins, Burse will need to combine with Wendy Palmer to carry a larger load.

    In camp the Storm has been really accentuating early post-up opportunities for Burse and she has embraced it. Sprinting down the floor Burse is able to get deep in the lane and her left-handed post moves have been deadly. She has been equally good out of each block and her balance is dramatically better then it once was when she is making her post moves.

    Two plays in practice have stood out the most. One was a post move where she was bumped by the guy who was guarding her and she was able to muster enough strength to stay with the play. The other was on a post move from the right block she spun into the middle looking for her left-hand shot, but it was taken away and she passed out to a shooter. I am not sure she had the ability to make the pass out of the post like that the last few seasons.

    Both of these plays are representative of improved balance and that will make JB vastly improved.

    The Bird is in the House
    Posted on May 4, 4 p.m.


    Walking into the gym today and seeing Sue Bird just brought a smile to my face. Storm basketball has finally started. Kevin Pelton has written today’s feature story on the Bird being in the house. Practice had a totally different feel to it today with Bird on the floor.

    Bird’s presence gives Anne Donovan a reference point for every other guard in practice. For the past weeks, everything has been words to the younger players and now with Bird in practice Donovan can say, "Did you see that?"

    That is exactly what happened when Bird took the perfect angle coming off a pick in the pick-and-roll game and Donovan stopped the practice to show how if you do it correctly like Bird did, then either you will be open or the defense has to react and leave another player open.

    For more on the little things that Bird does and another insane day from Barbara Turner click here for the audio blog.

    If you ever wondered how much Bird cares about winning and the Storm this story will tell you. During this off-season, Donovan was at her computer when she received an e-mail from Bird. This is not uncommon. Bird is a bit notorious for her texting and e-mailing the coaches during drafts and free agency or at any other big moments in the franchise.

    This time it was different. It was February and Bird was still thinking about the loss to the Comets and it was stewing. Bird e-mailed Donovan to find out what she had to do to make sure this never happened again. What did she need to do? Unlike a lot of players, she wasn’t looking to place the blame elsewhere; she was going to change things herself.

    It built into a nice dialogue with the main point that Bird could be more assertive and aggressive with the team both on and off the floor. This is all part of the building process for Bird. It will also be part of what Donovan needs from Bird on the 2008 Olympic Team.

    There are two main stories here. First, the Seattle Storm is on the forefront of Bird’s mind 12 months a year. Most importantly, this women is obsessed with success and winning and what happened to close the 2005 season was something she will work every day she can to avoid ever experiencing again.

    If initial impressions are worth anything, Bird seemed incredibly optimistic about where the team stands as she arrives. She admitted that last year everyone was overly worried about all the new pieces and how young they were.

    This year, she can tell that the veteran influence of Wendy Palmer has already had an impact. Moreover, there is a comfort level amongst this group that was built last year.

    Storm season can begin. There is a bird in the house and her name is Sue.

    The Storm also made two cuts to the roster today, requesting waivers on Toccara Williams and Dalila Eshe. The Williams cut might surprise some people. However, having been at practice, I made up a word to characterize Williams play: “inevident.” It might be self-explanatory, but the comment means that it was never evident if she was on the floor or off the floor. She had no impact on plays and she was not evident in the flow of practice. If I hadn’t been watching her to see if she could fill the backup role, I could have left the gym and wondered if she had played.

    The other side is that Shaunzinski Gortman has played well and shown an ability to play the point guard. During Tuesday’s practice, one the guys on the practice squad was on fire. Call him Dude 1. Dude 1 was killing people. He was driving through the paint and hitting jumpers. It was Dude 1’s world. Dude 1 was a small forward type. Donovan stopped practice and put Gortman at the point and had her cross-match onto Dude 1. Dude 1 quickly became very quiet.

    Also, Tanisha Wright can assist Gortman with the ball-handling duties as the backup point guard.

    I am not sure this necessarily closes the book on the point guard battle. Waiver wires can do crazy things and there may be a player or two down the line whom Donovan deems appropriate to bring into camp.

    Awaiting Sue's Return
    Posted on May 3, 3 p.m.


    Sue Bird is in town. Now the season can get started. Sue should practice on Thursday, but if all goes well on Friday, Anne Donovan will have her crew for the first time. With Izi Castro Marques here, last year’s starting five will reunite. Lauren Jackson will practice and the Seattle Storm will be taking shape. Lauren also will be live at the Bellevue Starbucks on Saturday from 3:30 to 4:30. Lauren is quite the constant in our house right now after my three year old realized he wore her jersey earlier this year. For more on that, check out today’s audio file.

    Sunday we all get to see it in person with the first preseason game against the New York Liberty ). In all honesty, the camp needs Sue to arrive. Everyone has pushed their talents to the maximum, but it is time for someone to come in and run the show. It is time for players see how the offense runs at its optimum with a natural point guard.

    The last two cuts of Erin Grant and Lindsey Yamasaki were not surprising from watching practice. Grant’s lack of size and strength was too much for her to overcome.

    The most interesting moment of practice from Tuesday took place after practice when Donovan took rookie Barbara Turner aside. Donovan shared with use her huge expectations of Turner and how much she adores her game in this week’s StormCast.

    However, it was obvious on Tuesday that Turner did not have her usual energy. This is partially because it is so obvious when she does. In other words, when she wasn’t impacting every play and she was on par with everyone else it stood out.

    Donovan’s message to Turner was how she needed to learn the pacing of a WNBA season. For the first time in her career she is going to have to play back to back games in different cities. For the first time she is going to people who are physically able to match her strength and her intensity. Therefore, she is going to have to learn how to get herself going when her body is saying no.

    In addition, Donovan told Turner that she has to communicate with Donovan so she can manage her and do what she can to help Turner get going. It is a good example of the forethought and brilliance in Donovan’ coaching. Touch on what will be a season-long issue for Turner and any rookie and start planting the seeds of how to deal with now.

    Turner very well maybe on an island in regards to how to deal with this. It looks unlikely that this year’s team will have any other rookies on the roster, in contrast to last season when the Storm had five different first-year players.

    Roster Breakdown
    Posted on May 1, 10 p.m.


    It is crunch time in the position battles. With the first pre-season game on Sunday night (6:00 p.m., KJR 950 AM, ) and a road trip coming shortly thereafter, the roster must take shape.

    Today was the first time all camp we saw the starting frontcourt of Lauren Jackson and Janell Burse on the floor together. It made a huge difference in practice. Burse was the highlight of practice. (For more on that, click here for other thoughts from today’s practice in today’s audio report.)

    Let’s break down how the roster is playing out. Teams can carry 11 players and then have the choice to carry up to 13 players. Having extra players on the roster is much less important in a truncated season like the W rather then the NBA.

    Eight spots seemed solid. Last year’s starting line-up returns: Sue Bird, Betty Lennox, Izi Castro Marques, Burse and LJ. (By the way, LJ will be at the Bellevue Starbucks from 3:30 to 4:30 on Saturday.)

    Three bench spots are fairly certain: last year’s first-round pick Tanisha Wright, this year’s number one pick Barbara Turner and free agent pick-up Wendy Palmer. While we're talking about Turner, I'm not the only person has fallen for her. Check out what Anne Donovan said in this week’s edition of StormCast.

    Simone Edwards is back in camp. She brings such electricity the building with her personality. In addition, she has subtly improved her game each of the last few years, including shooting 59% from the field last year. Teams would be hard-pressed to find a better fourth post on their roster.

    The only issue is that none of Seattle’s post players are bruisers. It is a missing component to the roster and something I am sure the coaching staff will keep an eye on. Former Houston Comet Tiffani Johnson will be coming to camp and she adds that dimension if the rest of her game is up to standard.

    Here is a quick breakdown of the other players in camp and their strengths.

  • Shaunzinski Gortman - Incredibly long and has shown the ability to play the point. Gives the coaches great flexibility in her ability to play the 1, 2 or 3 defensively. Not a natural point guard, but has shown the ability to run the team when needed.
  • Toccara Williams - Natural point guard. Had a strong practice today. Good defensive presence, she was one of the leaders in the WNBA in steals per minute two years ago.
  • Erin Grant - A natural point guard who runs the team well. She slipped to the third round of the draft because she lacks the size and strength needed to play the point in the WNBA. If she is able to add that, she has shown the ability to play in the WNBA.
  • Lindsey Yamasaki - A great player to have in camp. She is very versatile in her ability to play both the wing and the post. Very smart player as well. It's amazing how well she has comeback from an Achilles tendon injury in only one year.
  • Lindsay Taylor - You can’t teach size. Anne has been working very hard with Taylor day in and day out. She has a surprisingly strong base for a player of this size.
  • Dalila Eshe – Out the last few days with a minor knee injury. Haven’t gotten a grasp on how her college game adapts to the much faster WNBA.

    Palmer's Presence
    Posted on April 29, 7 p.m.


    When this season ends, Wendy Palmer will have averaged somewhere around double-figures scoring and five or so rebounds a game. For an Xs and Os breakdown of how Palmer will help the team, click here for today’s audio breakdown. However, her greatest value to the Seattle Storm may be taking place every day of this training camp.

    Anne Donovan said it best - Wendy Palmer is “gold.” Her 10-year veteran presence is evident in every drill of practice. She stood on the sidelines with her grey sweatsuit drenched top to bottom and instead of taking one play off, she yelled encouragement to all her teammates on the floor. More impressively, she moved to the side of the floor where second-round pick Dalila Eshe was starting the play and she talked her through every step of the offensive set.

    In her own play, Palmer sets the tone every time she steps on the court. The most noticeable example was when she took a jumper from the left baseline about 19 feet out and it missed. While every other player on the floor seemed to take a deep breathe thinking the play was done (it was a half-court drill so there was no rebound and transition opportunity), Palmer grabbed the board and put the ball back up in. It was a clear message from a 10-year veteran to play out every play.

    If Palmer has missed anything in practice, it's that on numerous occasions Donovan has had to remind her to take the shot more often when she instead attempts to set up a younger player to give them confidence.

    After 10 years in the league there is only one thing left for Palmer to accomplish, and that is to win a championship. Donovan brought her to Seattle for her leadership and because the team needed the veteran who had a one-track mind focused on a championship.

    For Palmer the drive is also the love of the game. She talks about the off-season as a time when she misses the daily grind, misses the thrill of playing competitively and craves the chance to play again. Her passion for the game is obvious.

    Last year’s camp really struggled until Sue Bird arrived from Russia. This year things have been much better largely because of Palmer and her leadership.

    Palmer's game may not be the same as she had in 1998 when I called her games in Utah or in 2000 when she put 32 points on the board against the Storm when she played for Detroit (the opponent individual record against the Storm for some time until Sheryl Swoopes broke it in 2004), but it is still strong and her leadership is a perfect compliment to the Storm.

    Notes From Friday's Practice
    Posted on April 28, 10 p.m.


    Today’s practice was mostly about offense. This training camp has been very defense-oriented, but with just a week until the preseason games start, Anne Donovan really put the emphasis on understanding the offensive sets.

    A lot of the conversation around the offense was about the change from the 30-second clock to the 24-second clock. That is the focus of today’s audio file.

    Without question, my favorite part of practice is watching Donovan coach. She is a master. Today she spent a huge amount of time communicating to each player why they need to be where they are on the floor and how they are impacting the other four players on the floor. When players grasp that, you get that very special chemistry on the floor.

    In addition, Donovan’s ability to see everything that is happening on the floor at one time is magnificent. On numerous occasions, there were plays where she noticed something on the weak side while most of the action took place elsewhere. She also notices the slightest alterations in a player’s spacing and how that impacts the passing lanes and floor balance.

    A good example of this is that the wings were struggling on the insert pass and she was working with them on how to create those angles. Then, after the pass, she kept reminding the wings to move away from the ball to pull their defender away from the post player.

    Some other observations from Friday’s morning sessions:

  • Toccara Williams arrived in camp. Be sure to read Kevin Pelton’s account on Williams. There are some reasons to be very excited about her presence.

  • Shaunzinski Gortman played a good deal of point in practice and was impressive in some of her natural instincts of when to pull it out and where to go with the ball. I am interested in seeing if she has any sort of one-on-one game or scoring game. See the audio file about why this is important.

  • Barbara Turner wowed me again. I am hesitant to keep talking about the rookie, because it is unfair and we should temper the enthusiasm a bit. Nonetheless, she was aggressive in the paint, her jumper looked very good and she passes well in traffic. Again, let’s wait and she how she plays against the elite of the W before we all go too crazy (this again is more for me then you).

  • Tanisha Wright is much more vocal on the floor then she was a year ago.

    Seeing Turner is Believing
    Posted on April 27, 6 p.m.


    The two cuts made last night (one was point guard Leah Metcalf - for an update on the point guard situation, click here to listen to today’s audio file) caught most people’s attention today, but I am here to tell you about Barbara Turner. Let me tell you, seeing is believing.

    Storm fans, you are going to love Barbara Turner. After practice today, a group of us got to chat with her and she is engaging, thoughtful and a pleasure to be around. The best part is the woman can play.

    In the media world we talk about players that can fill up your notebook. Turner gave the reporters enough stories they could write a story about her every day. That's not to mention the amazing things Anne Donovan said about her after practice.

    Donovan said that Turner has the unteachable “it.” The “it” is the incredible ability to play every possession with your maximum energy. Think Tamika Catchings. Donovan raved about her competitiveness and how she will not allow a play to go by that she doesn’t impact. Donovan even said, “She is going to be very good. Those aren’t flashes, that is her game.” Let me tell you, the flashes are terrific and if those aren’t flashes that is good news for Storm fans.

    Before we get too excited about her game, let’s all take a deep breath (this is mostly meant for me) and remember she is not playing against fellow top-level WNBA players yet and there still is going to be a lot of adjustment. Turner even admits that defensively she is really not sure of herself yet and that the move from a down-low power player to an open-floor wing player is taking some adjustment.

    Now to the fun stuff. Kevin Pelton has already profiled her at storm.wnba.com, but today we learned more. She started playing the game in Ohio with her older brother Cameron, who was four years older. They played two-on-two against the neighbor boys. Evidently, Cameron was pretty competitive and didn’t accept losing under any circumstances. Turner even said it got so intense that she didn’t like playing for a while. Can’t you just see Barbara and her brother going up and down the neighborhood playing everyone almost as a sting - "Hey, you want to play me and my little sister?" and then the little sister could ball.

    Talking to Turner is impressive. She makes eye contact. She is very well-spoken and very sure of herself. The phrase “beyond her years” fits perfectly.

    In this 10th Anniversary season, Turner is also a great example of how the WNBA has changed the lives of young girls. Growing up in Cleveland, Turner went to Rockers games and her aunt was a season-ticket holder. At an awards banquet, she met then-Cleveland Cavaliers Coach John Lucas. After exchanging numbers, Turner started working out with Lucas in Cleveland. (She also had a personal trainer at this point in high school). Most of those workouts took place with male players and they included current and future NBA players. In fact, she wears #11 in part because of the time she spent with Earl Boykins (now with the Denver Nuggets) during those workouts. Yes, she posted him up.

    This is one terrific lady both on and off the floor. When you see her, you will believe.

    Observations From Day Two
    Posted on April 26, 2 p.m.


    Things seemed much smoother at the morning practice today for the Seattle Storm. You can never overlook how nervous and uptight some of the free-agent players must be. I noticed two things today that exemplified their pressure. One was how different a player can look from one day to the next. Maybe on day one they were nervous and then they realize they can’t have another bad day so there is more focus and intensity the next.

    The other is the reaction to errors. A few players had some struggles today as their skills weren’t translating to the WNBA game. The pressure mounted with each mistake and was visible in their face.

    I kept a running recording of my thoughts from practice today. It includes what the drills were and thoughts on Lindsay Taylor and first-rounder Barbara Turner.

    Kicking Off Training Camp
    Posted on April 25, 1 p.m.


    Hello everyone. It sure is exciting to be back with the WNBA and inside a month to Opening Day on the 21st on May against the hated L.A. Sparks.

    We are really going to intensify and expand the coverage on storm.wnba.com this season. We will have audio downloads as well as podcast shows and blogs - plus all the great stuff that Kevin Pelton has done in the past.

    I just returned from practice today. The focus was almost entirely on defense. While I was at practice I talked into my recorder to share my thoughts with you and you can listen to that by clicking here. Sorry the quality isn’t great.

    Here are a few opening thoughts. Two items really should be getting headline play for the 2006 Seattle Storm. First, the entire starting lineup returns. That is not something a lot of teams are going to be able to say around the WNBA and the Storm will only make one change in their top seven players with the addition of Wendy Palmer.

    Last year, Anne Donovan was very concerned about offensive flow with all the new pieces and this year she will be able to put more of the focus on defense, because the offense will flow naturally.

    Second, the move to the 24-second clock is going to have a large change in how the game is defended. Players will now only have to get down and dirty for about 10 to 15 seconds rather then 15 to 25 which is a big difference. Offensively, this will favor teams that have players that can make plays on their own and Seattle has three of the best in Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Betty Lennox. In addition, it will favor teams that can run and we all know how Izi can run. It also can’t be forgotten how good Janell Burse became in the post on single coverage last season.

    Those are the thoughts for today. Please check back at storm.wnba.com for more. Also, don't forget to get your tickets - great 6- and 10-game packages are available.