Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Indiana (Preseason)
Storm Closes Preseason With Win
Final: Storm 67, Indiana 60
Before tonight's game, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler talked about his goals for the team's preseason finale.
"There's so much we'd like to accomplish tonight in terms of getting some people some playing time that we feel are going to be in the rotation to really evaluating some of the people that we're deciding on to make the final team," Agler said. "Then trying to look at some execution things on the floor. If we can get ¾ of the things we want accomplished tonight accomplished, then it will be a good night for us."
I suspect, before talking to Agler after the game, that it was a good night for the Storm. The team got 20-plus minutes for four of its five starters (Sheryl Swoopes was the lone exception, playing 17 minutes with a sore left ankle). All 13 players saw action for the Storm and a number of them played well tonight. The bench really acquitted itself nicely. I haven't mentioned Ashley Robinson, who had six points, four rebounds and a block in her 21 minutes of active play. As players battle for the final spots on the roster, I think Kimberly Beck made a really strong statement in her 24 minutes of action. Beck is heady beyond her years and had five assists with only one turnover tonight.
These two teams will get together again tomorrow for a joint practice at The Furtado Center, giving Agler and company additional opportunity to evaluate the players battling for spots in the rotation and on the roster against a WNBA opponent. The team will then return to the practice court Tuesday, hopefully with Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, for four days of practice to prepare to open the 2008 regular season against the Chicago Sky. I really hope you'll join us for that game and be part of what should be a terrific atmosphere at the Key. Between now and then, stay tuned to storm.wnba.com for a complete preview of the 2008 season for both the Storm and the WNBA as a whole.
Sue and LJ Heading Home for Opening Night
Fourth Quarter: Storm 67, Indiana 60
With the Storm pushing its lead to seven with 1:26 to go, let's look ahead. This time a week ago, the Storm will be hosting the Chicago Sky on Opening Night. The upper level is already open for that game, but it's not too late to get your seats and be here for what promises to be a very exciting season opener.
By then, the Storm will have integrated the last two pieces of the puzzle. Those are, of course, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. The Storm stars helped Spartak to a 101-63 victory over CSKA Moscow in today's Game 4 of the Russian Superleague Finals, claiming the Superleague championship for a second straight season. According to Brian Agler, Bird expects to be back in Seattle by tomorrow night. Jackson should be in Monday night and, assuming LJ gets her physical completed, both should be on the floor for Tuesday's practice after the Storm takes Monday off. It will be great to see Bird and Jackson, especially now that they've got yet another title to their credit.
Storm Holding On
Fourth Quarter: Storm 65, Indiana 59
With 2:35 left to go, the Storm maintains a six-point lead with Kasha Terry headed to the free-throw line. The vets - Swin Cash, Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes - are done for the night, but Brian Agler has gotten Tanisha Wright and Shyra Ely back into the lineup alongside rookies Kim Beck and Kristen O'Neill and newcomer Kelly Santos. A lot of players are contributing for the Storm. Santos had three offensive boards on one possession a moment ago, while Beck has done a great job of distributing the basketball tonight.
Largest Lead for Storm
Fourth Quarter: Storm 59, Indiana 52
It's a 9-2 run for the Storm, which has its largest lead of the night at 59-52. The young Storm players are playing some great basketball right now. The Storm has rookies Kimberly Beck and Daphanie Kennedy in the backcourt, Roneeka Hodges and Katie Gearlds at forward and Ashley Robinson in the middle. It's a very athletic, active group that has negated Indiana's size advantage. The 6-1 Gearlds is defending the 6-7 Alison Bales and has held her own. On the other end, Gearlds has taken advantage of the mismatch to get free for a pair of three-pointers. Daphanie Kennedy followed with a three-point play in transition that showed off her incredible big-play ability.
Storm Takes Lead to the Fourth
End Third Quarter: Storm 50, Indiana 48
I can't remember which WNBA coach I heard say this over the last couple of weeks - it might even have been Brian Agler - but I loved the thought. Asked about whether they wanted to win, the coach responded, "As long as we're going to play it, we might as well win." So the Storm will probably use this fourth quarter extensively for evaluation, but Coach Agler and company would also like to come out with a W. The Storm leads by two going to the fourth. I liked the effort by a group of reserves late in the fourth to put pressure on the ball and get to the basket. An Ashley Robinson layup off of a terrific feed from rookie Kimberly Beck gave the Storm a 50-48 lead going to the fourth.
We saw the Hodges sisters play together late in the third, creating some WNBA history if only in the preseason. The last Storm player to see action is rookie guard Daphanie Kennedy, who will check in to start the fourth quarter.
Storm Offense in Sync
Third Quarter: Storm 44, Indiana 44
After starting the third quarter a little slowly, the Storm offense has gotten untracked recently, scoring nine points in three minutes to tie the game at 44-all. The key has been terrific ball movement. The Storm has 11 assists on 18 field goals, including nine on 13 in the first half. When the Storm hasn't been knocking down shots,t eh team has been all over the offensive glass, grabbing 11 offensive boards - seven alone by Yolanda Griffith, who is only the greatest offensive rebounder in the history of women's basketball (with apologies to Natalie Williams).
The Fever is staying in this game from the three-point line - seven triples tonight, including three in the third quarter. Tan White has three of them and has 14 points to lead the Fever in scoring. She and Allison Feaster (who has looked very good tonight) account for half of Indiana's points.
Force 10 Hoops Debut
Halftime: Storm 33, Indiana 33
Tonight's game is showcasing a lot of changes for the Storm, whether it's new Head Coach Brian Agler's system or Storm newcomers Swin Cash, Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes. In the long run, however, no change is an is important as one off the court - the Storm's new ownership group, Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. All four local businesswomen who make up Force 10 are sitting courtside tonight along with Storm CEO Karen Bryant. The seats got a lot better this year - but also a lot more expensive. In Agler's words, the four of them are "rock stars" in Seattle right now.
"It's a huge night for them," Agler said. "I hope we can hold up our end of the bargain."
Pluses and Minuses for Storm in First Half
Halftime: Storm 33, Indiana 33
The Storm goes into the break tied with Indiana at 33, and there's some things Brian Agler had to like in the first half as well as some areas the Storm will look to pick up. The Storm executed fairly well for a preseason game, turing the ball overs even times in the first half. The team struggled a little with Indiana's full-court pressure in the first quarter, but that was less of an issue late in the half. You'd like to see the Storm knock down some more of the good looks the team has gotten so far tonight after shooting just 37.1%. Swin Cash was the only starter to hit at least 50% in the first half.
Homecoming for Dunn
Second Quarter: Storm 29, Indiana 28
The Indiana Fever takes a full timeout, and the person calling that timeout is former Storm Head Coach Lin Dunn, now in the same role in Indiana after serving as an assistant for the Fever the last four years. It's good to see Dunn as a head coach. She referred to returning to the role as like "riding a bike." The fans here still appreciate Dunn's efforts in building this franchise; she got a very nice standing ovation when she was introduced before the game. In turn, Dunn calls Seattle maybe her favorite city and was thrilled to hear the news that the Storm had been purchased this off-season by Force 10 Hoops, L.L.C, including a couple of members of the ownership group whom Dunn knows from her Seattle days.
Incidentally, Sheryl Swoopes did get back in the game earlier here in the second quarter as Brian Agler has been rotating a number of players in and out quickly. Kelly Santos also got some run, leaving Roneeka Hodges and Daphanie Kennedy as the only Storm players yet to see action tonight.
Second Quarter: Indiana 26, Storm 25
While the Storm wants to win tonight's game and execution is important, a major focus for Head Coach Brian Agler and the rest of the coaching staff is evaluating the five or so players battling for the last two spots on the Storm's roster.
"We want to see them play to their strengths," Agler said before tonight's game. "We have an idea what those are - see how that fits into the big picture."
Fun StormVision feature during the timeout. On Thursday, at the second Media Day, the Storm had a number of players interview each other on camera. Tonight, it was twins Roneeka Hodges and Doneeka Lewis going back and forth with each other, displaying some typical sibling rivalry.
O'Neill Beats the Buzzer
End First Quarter: Storm 19, Indiana 18
Great finish to the first quarter, as Storm rookie Kristen O'Neill knocked down a jumper from the left wing with 0.4 seconds left on the clock after a scramble for the ball. The crowd gave a huge round of applause to the Edmonds native and University of Washington product. The Storm shot but 31.6% from the field in the first quarter, while Indiana hit 63.6%. Yet the Storm holds the lead thanks to nine Fever turnovers and a 10-2 advantage in free-throw attempts. Yolanda Griffith scored seven points and pulled down four boards in the first quarter, while Swin Cash added six points.
Already, 11 Storm players have seen action as Brian Agler continues to evaluate the players fighting for spots on the roster. Sheryl Swoopes cam out after taking a fall and coming up holding her left arm, but she stayed on the bench and I don't think it's a major issue.
Slow Storm Shooting Start
First Quarter: Indiana 7, Storm 6
As you might expect from a preseason game, the Storm has not shot the ball particularly well early in this game, going 3-of-13 for 23.1% shooting. The Storm has gotten some good looks in the paint but is not converting those yet. Swin Cash has provided most of the offense for the Storm, knocking down a pair of midrange jumpers for her four points. The Fever is shooting an even 50.0% from the field - but in a mere four shot attempts, having turned it over five times.
We've already seen Tanisha Wright at both shooting guard and point guard in this game, as she was replaced by rookie point Kimberly Beck and then stepped back in for Sheryl Swoopes. Now she's back on the point with Beck getting a break.
Swoopes to Play, Apparently
The one question for the Storm going into tonight's game was whether Sheryl Swoopes would be able to play after tweaking her left ankle during Thursday's practice. She is dressed and going through pregame drills, so it appears Swoopes will in fact make her first Storm start at KeyArena.
"I anticipate her to start," Head Coach Brian Agler said before the game. "I don't see why she wouldn't, but we're going to wait and put her through a series of a little bit more up and down out there in warmups and see."
Welcome to KeyArena, where the Seattle Storm will take the floor for the first time in 2008 tonight, completing their preseason against the Indiana Fever. Having covered training camp for nearly three weeks, this doesn't feel like the start of the season to me, but it is still neat to see KeyArena filling up with fans for the first time this year. It will also be nice to see the Storm tested against someone besides each other and the practice squad. The Indiana Fever is extremely short-handed, with all five likely starters sitting out tonight's game, but presents an interesting contrast. It should be a fun one, so stay with us all night long for the latest.