Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson will look to lead the Storm beyond the first round of the playoffs in 2009.
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

Season Outlook

The Storm�s season outlook got a lot brighter on May 4, when two-time MVP and unrestricted free agent Lauren Jackson chose to return to Seattle rather than signing with the Phoenix Mercury. Replacing Jackson�s production in the lineup would have been next to impossible and is an issue that head coach Brian Agler is happy to not have to deal with.

Having to play without Jackson is something the Storm did have to face last season as she left the team for five games prior to the Olympic break in order to return to Australia for training with the Australian Opals National Team in hopes of capturing Olympic gold in Beijing. During training, Jackson suffered an ankle injury that would require surgery. She played through the pain during the Olympics, but did not return to the floor for the Storm as she missed the final eight games of the regular season and the playoffs.

Without Jackson, the Storm were still able to secure the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 22-12 record, but were unable to get past the Los Angeles Sparks in the first round, being eliminated in three games.

In Jackson�s absence, Sue Bird made a transition from facilitator to scorer in the Storm offense. With Jackson in the Storm lineup, Bird led the league in assists at 6.1 per game, and added 13.1 points per game. With Jackson out, Bird�s scoring average jumped to 17.5 points per game as she became an MVP candidate, finishing third in the voting behind Candace Parker and Lindsay Whalen.

To open the 2009 season, Bird will likely return to her facilitator role, as Jackson returns to the Storm with a healthy ankle and Bird�s former UConn teammate Swin Cash � entering her second season in Seattle � returns with a healthy back after undergoing offseason surgery.

Seattle also welcomes the return of a pair of former post players with Suzy Batkovic and Janell Burse back in Storm uniforms in 2009. Batkovic, a 6-foot-4 center from Australia, played for the Storm in 2005 and will join the team prior to opening day. Burse, a 6-5 center, returns to the Storm after sitting out the entire 2008 WNBA season to rest lingering shoulder, foot and knee injuries.

On the other hand, the Storm saw two veterans from last year�s squad move on as Yolanda Griffith signed with the Indiana Fever as a free agent and Sheryl Swoopes was waived by the Storm in order to free up cap space to re-sign Jackson and guard Tanisha Wright.

With Jackson, Burse, Batkovic, Ashley Robinson, Camille Little, Kasha Terry and rookie Ashley Walker, the Storm have a surplus of post players. With rosters being trimmed to 11 players this season, it is unlikely all of these players will make the squad. Obviously, Jackson is a lock for a roster spot and Burse and Batkovic appear to be safe as well. Little and Walker have the ability to play the three as well as the four, which adds some versatility to the lineup and adds to their value.

The Storm are less deep on the perimeter. Bird will start at the point, with veteran free agent Shannon Johnson joining the squad as a backup. Wright should start at the two guard, with Cash on the other wing at the three spot. Backing up the two-three spots are sharpshooter Katie Gearlds and La'Tangela Atkinson.

With the departures of Griffith and Swoopes, the Storm have two open slots in their starting lineup to fill and a new rotation to get used to with a number of new players on board for 2009. Health will once again be a concern, but if Jackson and Cash can return to their pre-injury form, the Storm will have a legitimate Big Three to build around in hopes of an another championship run.

The Storm have made the playoffs in each of the four years after winning the 2004 WNBA title, but have been unable to make it out of the first round in any of those years. Is this the year Seattle advances past the first round and fulfills its WNBA Finals aspirations? It will not be easy, as the Western Conference is once again loaded with talent. From perennial playoff contenders like Los Angeles, San Antonio, Sacramento and Phoenix, to the up-and-coming Minnesota Lynx, competition in the West should be as fierce as ever in 2009.

Brian Martin

Player on the Spot

Prior to the 2008 season, newly appointed head coach and GM Brian Agler went out and acquired a trio of veteran players to join his All-Star tandem of Bird and Jackson in hopes of making a Finals run in his first year at the helm.

Cash, Swoopes and Griffith were joined the Storm and brought with them a total of seven championships and four MVP awards. The Storm marketing team dubbed the season as The Perfect Storm, but the vision of another championship never came to fruition, due in part to injuries to Jackson and Cash.

With The Perfect Storm idea scratched during the offseason with the departure of Griffith and Swoopes, the Storm enter the 2009 season with the hope that Cash can become the third member of a Big Three alongside Bird and Jackson.

Cash obviously has the talent to fill that role, but the question is whether or not she can find the form that she had during her first three years in Detroit, when she averaged over 15 points and six rebounds per game for the Shock. Since that time, Cash has been hampered by injuries, most notably a bulging disc in her lower back. She had successful surgery to repair the disc during the offseason and is currently working her way back to full contact drills on the court.

Shortly after the surgery, Cash spoke about how much of a relief it was to finally have the procedure done and that she felt a burden had been lifted that she has had to carry for the past few seasons.

With a healthy Cash on the floor, the Storm have an ideal Big Three with one of their best players at the point, on the wing and in the post. Only time will tell if the Storm will have the old Swin back.

Brian Martin

Projected Lineup

G.Sue Bird
G.Tanisha Wright
F.Swin Cash
F.Lauren Jackson
C.Janell Burse

Players Added

G/F.La�Tangela Atkinson
C.Suzy Batkovic
C.Janell Burse
G.A�Quonesia Franklin
G.Shannon Johnson
F.Aja Parham
F/C.Kasha Terry
F.Ashley Walker

Players Lost

F.Shyra Ely
C.Yolanda Griffith
F.Kelly Santos
F.Sheryl Swoopes

2008 Leaders

PPGLauren Jackson20.2
RPGLauren Jackson7.0
APGSue Bird5.1
SPGLauren Jackson /
Sheryl Swoopes
BPGLauren Jackson1.57

Team Stats

Points Scored73.3(11th)
Points Allowed70.8(1st)
Field-Goal Percentage.426(5th)
Opponents� FG%.398(T-2nd)
Rebounding Diff.+2.1(T-3rd)