The Wright Choice All Along
One of the Seattle Storm's top priorities entering the WNBA's free-agency period was to retain guard Tanisha Wright, a restricted free agent. Wright's desire was to remain in Seattle and continue to build on a career year in 2008 that helped the Storm to the best regular season in franchise history. Both sides got what they wanted Wednesday, when the Storm announced that Wright had been re-signed.
Wright's satisfaction with her new deal was evident by phone from France, where she is playing during the WNBA offseason.
As a restricted free agent, Wright had the opportunity to sign an offer sheet with another team, forcing the Storm to make a decision on whether or not to match. However, she had little interest in spending much time looking elsewhere. She already knew she had found the right fit in Seattle.
"There wasn't a doubt in my mind where I wanted to be and continue to play," said Wright. "I knew I wanted to be in Seattle. If that's something that you know, there's no reason to go astray."
Wright entered free agency coming off of a breakthrough 2008 season, one that saw her average 10.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 14 starts. Much of that development can be credited to Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. After two years spent mostly as the backup to point guard Sue Bird, Agler moved Wright primarily off the ball and demonstrated confidence in her. That paid off as Wright emerged as one of the Storm's most reliable contributors and a regular who played at least 30 minutes in all but one of the team's games after the Olympic break.
Agler's relationship with Wright played a key role in her desire to return to the Storm.
"From day one, Brian came in and really supported me," Wright said, "challenged me and expressed how much he wanted me to be in a Storm uniform, how much he wanted me to play for the Storm and how much he believed in me. That obviously weighed a ton.
"Then being able to come back and play with the players that I've been playing with the last couple of years - Sue (Bird) and Lauren (Jackson), I've been playing with them for four years. I've played with Ashley (Robinson) for a couple of years now. Then the players that we had come in last year and the kind of success we had last year, the opportunity to come back and do that again and go beyond that is something that really kept playing in the back of my mind."
Having turned 25 in November, Wright is just beginning to enter her prime as a WNBA player. She could benefit in 2009 from the addition of a true point guard behind Bird on the roster, an addition Agler has highlighted as a key goal during the offseason. While Wright has shouldered the role of backup point guard, she has long made it clear that her preference is playing alongside a point guard.
"I think that's another priority that he's going to be looking into as far as the Storm for '09," said Wright. "Definitely I think he'll be looking to get a backup point guard, which I think will help me a lot more. I don't have to concentrate on that as much. I can really just concentrate on being a two and fulfilling those duties. I think it's something I've been looking forward to a long while, being in Seattle. At the same time, I'm willing to take on anything he throws at me. Obviously I've been doing that for years now."
While playing in France for Tarbes, Wright is working on all aspects of her game, from shooting and ballhandling to conditioning and her physique, in trying to extend the versatility that has been her trademark with the Storm. She has averaged 9.3 points, 3.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds in EuroCup play as her team has reached the Eighth-finals as the No. 4 seed, those numbers limited by the fact that Wright has barely been needed against lesser opponents. She played just 29 total minutes in Tarbes' lopsided two-game aggregate series victory over Baschet ICIM in December.
"It's been really good," said Wright of her first season in France after spending the last two years starring in the Israeli League. "We're tied for first place in France. The play is a little different. It's not too much different from Israel, but it's a little different. There are some better players. For the most part, it's been really good. My team is doing really well. We're playing well in the EuroCup. The good thing about France right now is that my body's being able to rest a little bit.
"The country itself is totally different from Israel - well, where I am at least [in the south of France, though inland]. It's not as Americanized as Israel is. Not as much to do, but for the most part it's good. It's a new experience, and all new experiences are good for you."
Storm training camp is still more than four months away, but with her contract finalized, Wright sounds like she'd be ready to start tomorrow.
"I'm really looking forward to the 2009 season," she said, "especially after the season that we had last year. I just think that we have so much that we can build on, so much we can get better on, so much potential with the team that we had. Granted, I know we're not going to bring back the exact same players, but I think whoever Brian brings in to play for us will be a great group of girls and he'll really have something in store for us. I'm really excited to begin that."