Storm Hits the Road to Close Preseason
In the Midwest to complete preseason play, the Seattle Storm will get its first look at the expansion Chicago Sky tonight (5:30 p.m.) as the teams square off at UIC Pavilion in Chicago. The WNBA's 14th franchise, the Sky is the first to enter the league as an expansion team since 2000 and the first to come into existence with non-NBA ownership. Chicago businessman Michael Alter, a real-estate developer, is the team's majority owner.
The Sky kicked off the franchise's existence on the floor on Tuesday, hosting the Los Angeles Sparks. Despite 32 points and 17 rebounds from All-Star Sparks center Lisa Leslie, the Sky earned its first-ever win, 78-73. Former Storm forward Amanda Lassiter, a starter, led the Sky with 14 points, while another former Storm forward, veteran Stacey Lovelace, came off the bench to score 12 points.
Despite some recognizable names, how the Sky will play this season remains something of a mystery, which is why Storm Coach Anne Donovan scheduled an exhibition game in Chicago.
"I was eager to play Chicago, just to see what they've got," she said last week.
One player the Sky will not have is guard Francesca Zara, selected from the Storm's roster in the expansion draft. Zara has yet to report to Chicago and may not at all this season because of an injury suffered playing in her native Italy.
The Storm will face Chicago with a thin frontline. Center Janell Burse did not travel with the team after re-aggravating the partial tear of her left shoulder labrum in practice earlier this week. All-Star forward Lauren Jackson is still unable to play back-to-back sets, and is expected to sit out tonight in favor of playing tomorrow. That leaves the Storm likely to start Wendy Palmer and Simone Edwards up front, with training-camp invitees Tiffani Johnson (making her Storm debut) and Lindsay Taylor off the bench.
Tonight's game, as well as tomorrow's, will be important as the Storm moves towards finalizing its roster. Donovan explained to the media earlier this week that while the Storm could keep 12 players on its final roster, it can't be this exact group of 12 because of the salary cap, meaning at least one of the posts battling for a roster spot - Edwards, Johnson and Taylor - will be waived. If Taylor is kept, the Storm would have room under the cap to add another inexperienced player making the non-veteran minimum.
There will be no local radio coverage of either of the Storm's games this weekend, but fans can follow the action tonight with WNBA.com's live stats, available once the game starts in the Courtside Box on the storm.wnba.com homepage.
On Saturday, the scene shifts to Minnesota as the Storm plays a rare back-to-back set against the Lynx. The game will be played at the Sports Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus. While the Storm will get Jackson back in the lineup for the game, backup wing Tanisha Wright will be absent so she can attend her graduation from Penn State University.
Jackson should get a good test against one of the WNBA's best young frontcourts. Minnesota boasts Nicole Ohlde and Vanessa Hayden, both entering their third seasons, up front, and added wing Seimone Augustus with the first pick of last month's WNBA Draft. Augustus is starting at the two for now, alongside second-year forward Kristen Mann. Mann teamed for three years at UC-Santa Barbara with the Storm's Taylor.
No live stats will be available for the game because it is not being played at a WNBA arena, but the Lynx are hoping to provide updates during the game on their official blog.