With Home Court Clinched, Agler to Rest Starters
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | Aug. 11, 2010
With yesterday's 80-70 win in Atlanta, the Seattle Storm accomplished the last of its goals for the regular season - clinching the league's best record and home-court advantage throughout the postseason. Beginning with the game against the Dream, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler plans to take a longer-term view to the Storm's road trip, limiting the minutes of starters and giving extended playing time to younger players on the bench.
"This is going to be a good trip for the Janas and the Ashleys and the Abbys and the Alisons," Agler said before the Storm headed out on the road. "They're going to get extended minutes in the second half."
Along with his coaching staff and input from other trusted peers, Agler devised a plan to open up the rotation while giving his starters enough minutes to stay sharp. He anticipated using a regular rotation during the first half, then opening the second half with reserves on the floor and generally using them the rest of the way. With just 11 players on the roster, it will be impossible to solely use reserves, so some starters may return briefly after halftime to give the bench a break.
It took less than a quarter for Agler to switch up the plan in Atlanta. With the Storm's starters getting off to a slow start, Agler decided to reverse things. Reserves played the last quarter and a half of the first half, getting the Storm out of its hole and taking a 32-31 lead by halftime. The regular rotation returned during the second half.
"I just don’t think they came out sharp," Agler explained after the game. "To me, there’s no use for them to be out there if they’re not sharp. The second group that came in got us back in the game. We weren’t going to give up on the first group so we let them come back in the third quarter."
Ultimately, none of the Storm's starters played more than 25 minutes. The bench responded well to the increased responsibility, with five of the six players getting on the score sheet. The only exception was center Ashley Robinson, who had four rebounds, three blocks and a pair of assists in her 10 minutes of play.
To Agler, making some kind of adjustment to the playing time logged by starters was clearly the right move once the Storm was secure with the league's best record.
"What else can we do?" he said. "We can't do anything else. We could win every single game and it wouldn't make any difference. We could lose every game and it wouldn't make any difference. The two goals are to stay sharp and to be fresh going into the playoffs."
There's also the matter of health. The Storm has been banged-up heading into each of the last two postseasons. Most notably, Lauren Jackson has been sidelined both times, but the injuries went beyond Jackson. In 2008, Sheryl Swoopes was just returning from a concussion and Swin Cash was severely limited by her back injury. Last year, Sue Bird missed time late in the regular season with a sore neck and Katie Gearlds did not play in the postseason because of a torn PCL suffered midway through the year.
"We've suffered here the last two years not being 100 percent as a roster going into the playoffs," said Agler. "We want to try to be there this year. We want to have our full roster going into the playoffs. I will say this - there is no right or wrong answer. We could sit them out for every single game, but then you risk not being sharp. You play them, just like we have been, then obviously there's more risk of injury. We've got to try to find a happy balance there. I've consulted quite a few people on this. Everybody thinks this could be a good plan. We'll see."
So far, Agler has only finalized his plans for a rotation for this week's road trip. When the Storm returns to Seattle, playing two of the last three games at home sandwiched around the road finale Friday in Phoenix, things may change.
"I can't tell you we'll play exactly like that when we play at home," Agler explained. "I think there's a pride here of playing at home, so we may not do that once we get back here, but this is a good eight or nine days where we're going to be away that we can hopefully help ourselves."