Saturday, December 29, 2007

Off-Season Reading

I am finding it just as hard to write this off-season as I did the last, despite the exciting things like the change in coaching. I will have more to write about once the coaching/GM decisions are announced.

Sue Bird was in town last week. I found it odd that she would come to Seattle during any time she had off from playing in Russia, but she was courtside at the Sonics/Celtics game on Thursday. She is unsigned and they have no coach, so perhaps she was in town to meet the candidates? She won't sign until the CBA is finalized, but if she is looking at coaches she is not likely considering signing elsewhere. Let's hope the new coach/GM picks a solid defensive, point guard who can shoot an open three so that Sue can get some breaks this season.

In the off-season I have spent some time reading some older offerings on Women's Basketball that I found on the shelves of Epilogue Books in Ballard this fall. I turned in some old paperbacks and picked these up on the resulting credits.

Full Court Press by Lauren Kessler
This book was published in 1997 and covers the 1993-1994 seasons of the women's team at the University of Oregon. The basketball story is not all that strong, though some of the young women have interesting moments. The heart of the book is really the legal battle between second year coach Jody Runge and the adminstration of the U of O. She came in as the lowest paid women's coach in the Pac-10 and was determined to change the culture of the program, not only into a winning culture, but one that acknowledged and respected the atheletes who delivered those winning efforts. This is not a Cinderella tale of NCAA victory, the team does well, but not final four well. There are stories on the court, early season injuries, last minute Aussie signings, players seeking confidence. There are more stories about the late programs, no band support, sub-par locker rooms, limited marketing, and the complete lack of benefactor endowments. I did a little research after reading the book. Runge achieved almost all of what she was trying to achieve throughout the book. She coached there for eight years, setting a 87-19 home winning record and earned 100 career Pac-10 victories. She had her program ranked in the AP poll for 12 straight weeks. None of the players on the team went into the W (that I am aware of) but the two Aussies, Sally Crowe (became Phillps) played in the WNBL for Dandenong and Adelaide and is now playing for the Venom in Big V in Australia. Renae Fegent played for three years with the Capitals. The book is definitely worth a read.

In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais
There is less politics, more basketball and a little slice of Western Massachusetts life in this 1995 book about the Amherst Hurricanes girl's basketball team from Amherst High School in Amherst Massachusetts. I grew up just south of Boston, but my Mom was a western Mass. girl and I know most of the towns they discuss in the story. The book digresses into the small town, New England life and wanders around a bit more than I normally like, but it is still a good read. It was originally an article in the New York Times magazine and later expanded into a full novel. It covers a single season for this team, digging into the emotional and intellectual lives of the players and how their remarkable season effected their whole community. The star of their team was Jamila Wideman who went on to Stanford, and played for the Sparks, the Sol and the Portland Fire in the WNBA. Her chief rival was Beth Kuzmeski who played in the WNBL with Betty Lennox, Rita Williams and Rebecca Lobo. This work is much more personal and has a more emotional style than the other book, I was really caught up in the whole story. It is another worthy read.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A New Coach

For the time being the Storm have at least one more season in Seattle and they are without a GM, a coach, and enough players to stage a practice, let alone a game. Karen Bryant has a lot of work in front of her.

A lot of coaching names are being thrown around on the net. I have seen everything from a plug for Dennis Rodman (no thank you), to plugs for Michelle Timms, Carrie Graf (one of those was mine), Mike Thibault (I think the Sun might have an issue with that), Shelly Patterson, Nancy Lieberman (didn't that experiment already fail?), Rick Mahorn, Sandy Brondello, Van Chancellor (my son would develop too many cavities), and even Paul Westhead (he is busy with the high paying NBA gig right now.) There have also been a number of college and WNBA assistants mentioned, but I have no idea who most of them are.

My gut tells me that it will be a tough sell no matter who they try to nab. The uncertain future of the franchise, its star players and where/if the team will play beyond 2008 all make the job a high risk venture. The best college coaches have solid jobs with decent salaries and are not likely to take a risky leap to the WNBA. A strong WNBA assistant looking to make their own as a head coach is a possibility, they know they have a chance to go back to being an assistant or nailing a college job down the road if they do well. I wonder if an Aussie based WNBL coach might consider it if they don't have off-season GM type duties at home. The seasons are complimentary in schedule, and it would be a chance to coach Lauren Jackson against some of the best players in the world.

As I said yesterday, I still think the Storm need a strong perimeter oriented coach with a defensive focus. They would need to bring in a solid assistant for the "bigs," but I think Anne Donovan has left the Storm with one of the most talented and best prepared front courts in the league. LJ, JB, Wendy and Ashley can sustain their performances and continue to learn, but Sue, Betty, Katie, Izi and any young draft picks or holdovers from last year need some focused guidance.

I really believe the Storm need separate GM and coaching positions right now. The two need to be on the same page, but the responsibilities need to be split. Anne seemed to trade well, but I was not thrilled with her draft picks over the past few years.

The Storm are in DESPERATE need of a defensive oriented, back-up, point guard. Tanisha Wright is simply not the answer. There are too many talented guards in the college ranks to settle for a player playing out of position. It would be nice to have a consistent, perimeter scorer off the bench, but I am not sure who is ready to step into that role.

This could be a really exciting time for Storm basketball. A change like this can reinvigorate the players (if they come back) and force teams to scout the Storm all over again. On the other hand it can also be mortal wound to a franchise with as much off court drama as the Storm face this season. I don't envy Karen Bryant, but I am certainly keeping my fingers crossed for her.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Storm Dance Troupe Shines, Donovan Pines

The Storm Dance Troupe was featured during the Sonics/Warriors game last night, and were the only Seattle element of the evening on fire other than the JumboTron. As reported in the news, a lighting instrument in the JumboTron caught fire early in the first quarter. Perhaps the flame was due to the heat generated by Golden States' hot shooting. Regardless, the only other fire shown by anyone from Seattle was the talent and passion the Storm Dance Troupe showed in the first half. They got the fans riled up and received the loudest cheers of the evening with a performance that should have embarrassed the rather lackluster and boring Sonics dancers. The kids looked great.

In more important news, Anne Donovan finally bailed on the team. I can't say that I am surprised, but I am disappointed. I really wanted to see Anne get a GM to help with talent evaluation and the draft and I wanted to see her pick up an assistant with a REAL focus on perimeter defense, lost when Jenny Boucek fled after the championship.

Having followed the turmoil in the papers this past summer and reading about AD's emotional moments while being heavily critisized early on, and then seeing her ripped for Team USA by a number of national writers, I suspected she might call it quits in Seattle which has its own set of issues regarding location and ownership. Anne brought us the new and improved LJ, JB and Izi, and led the team to the first professional championship since the 1970's. Her stony glare and her imposing height will be missed on the sidelines. Having first learned about women's basketball via Old Dominion University where both my brother and sister were educated, I felt a bizarre and misplaced set of kinship with Coach Donovan. Frankly, I just liked her.

She had a rotten track record in the WNBA draft. She seemed unable to inspire her youthful role players to the heights needed to win in the league. Her substitution patterns at times defied understanding. I got the sense that Anne was a superb planner but a poor adapter. She seemed to set up perfect game plans but was never able to adjust to changes made by other coaches in the flow of the game.

I wish her the best of luck with Team USA and whatever she chooses to pursue next. It was a wild and emotional ride and I feel like I have lost a close relative that I never actually met.

Thanks, Anne.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Netflix adds more Women's Basketball Options

I wrote about the "Watch Instantly" options for Internet video rental outfit Netflix a while back but they have added another title.

Swoopes on Hoops is a basic basketball video by one of the greatest to play in the WNBA.

On another front.

Yes, I am one of the people named in the class action suit against the Seattle Sonics.

No, I won't talk about it here until it is all over.

Get out and support basketball in Seattle. Go see the Sonics play. No matter how we feel about the owners or the way they are treating the fans in Seattle, we need to show the NBA and the media that Seattle fans care about basketball.

Monday, October 01, 2007

USA Takes Gold

Team USA took gold and guaranteed their Olympic berth with a 101-71 victory yesterday over Cuba, the only team that had given them trouble in the tournament. Cuba was competive in the first game of the tournament, losing in the final four minutes of the game. In the finals, the US took over immediately and never looked back. Cuba played with great heart, but never recovered from the initial 14-0 US run that started the game. Brazil won the bronze by defeating Argentina.

Storm origianl Simone Edwards of the Jamaican national team was the tournaments leading scorer and Yakelyn Plutin of Cuba was the tournament MVP.

I haven't written about the last couple of games because they have been progressively less interesting as the US found their rythm and played every minute in top form. The best games of the tournament for me were the opening US/Cuba battle and the down to the final seconds Cuba/Brazil semifinals game were Storm starter Izi Castro Marques cost her team a trip to the finals by missing her final two free throws and the unnecessary three she took down by one with around 14 seconds left in the game. She is their star, however (and the tournaments second leading scorer) and sometimes the games fall with their stars.

In other news, Sonics season ticket holders are filing a class action lawsuit in King County today against the Seattle Sonics alleging breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and violation of the State of Washington's Consumer Protection Act.

Friday, September 28, 2007

FIBA Americas Day 2

The US had to dominate this game and they did. They executed a picture perfect blow-out 115-47 win over Jamaica yesterday. The defense was much improved over the previous day (Anne Donovan was heard chastising her squad for allowing 13 points in the third quarter when the target was to keep them at 12 or under) and the offense flowed nicely. It did not matter who the US put on the floor (everyone played 10 or more minutes) things executed the way they were supposed to execute. Tina Thompson (15 points/3 rebounds/3 assists/4 steals) and Seimone Augustus (15 points/2 assists) led the team in scoring but they had double figure help from Diana Taurasi (12 points/4 rebounds/3 assists), Sue Bird (11 points/2 rebounds/2 assists) and Kara Lawson (11 points/7 rebounds/7 assists/5 steals) as well as decent scoring from the rest of the squad. No player scored less than 4 points for the US. For Jamaica, Simone Edwards continued her great performance with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals, but she finally got some help scoring from guard Nicole Louden who scored 14 points with 3 rebounds and hit both her three point attempts. Candace Parker blew a breakaway dunk in the third quarter...she took off a step too early and began her descent before she got to the rim sending the ball off the back rim. She responded by scoring off a hook in the paint and drawing a foul on her next possession. The dunk would have been a nice statement that the US is serious.

Brazil racked up their second win, this one a blowout 104-40 victory over host nation Chile. As fellow Storm Alum Edwards did for Jamaica, so Storm starter Iziane Castro Marques again did for Brazil, leading the team in scoring with 22 Points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. She got help from Jucimara Evangelista Dantas (16 points/6 rebounds/3 steals) and Micaela Martins Jacintho (12 points/2 assists). The rest of Brazil saw every player with a well balanced 5 or more minutes and 3 or more points. Ziomara Morrison Jara (20 points/5 rebounds) and Paola Naranjo Postigo (11 points/4 rebounds) led the way from Chile who turned the ball over 30 times, 18 of them on steals from Brazil's defense.

Cuba beat Canada 75-52 a day after they made the US work for their first tournament victory. Cuba was led by Yamara Amargo Delgado (16 points/2 rebounds/5 assists), Yayma Boulet Peillon (13 points/6 rebounds) and Yakelyn Plutin Tizon (13 points/5 rebounds/2 steals). Canada was led by Tamara Tatham (13 points/3 rebounds) and Amanda Brown (10 points/5 rebounds).

Mexico faced Argentina but the score is not yet available. Given the challenge that Argentina gave Brazil, I will take a guess that the weaker Mexico is now at 0-2 for the tournament.

The US takes on Canada at 13:00 PST today on NBA TV. So far it is looking like the US, Brazil and Cuba are the top teams...we'll have to see how that pans out. If the US were to get sloppy and lose today they would be tied with Canada and possibly Cuba were Cuba to win as well. The top four teams (two from each group) in the primary advance to the semi-finals and the remaining teams battle for positions 5-8 in the tournament.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

FIBA Americas Tournament

Canada beat Jamaica 68-47 despite a 25 point, 7 rebound and 2 block performance by Storm original Simone Edwards. Simone is currently the tournaments leading scorer. She didn't get much help in the scoring department with no other player reaching double figures. Simone even hit her only three pointer for the game which she dominated offensively. Unfortunately Canada was able to easily overcome them with balanced scoring, three players in double figures and two awful close.

The US barely held off Cuba for an 85-79 victory. Cuba came prepared and looked in control of the game until the final few minutes when the US tightened up, took the lead and pulled away. Key scoring and defense in the final moments by Candace Parker (21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks), Sue Bird (6 points, 9 assists, 4 steals), Katie Smith (13 points), Diana Taurasi (16 points, 5 rebounds) and Seimone Augustus (9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) enabled the US to pull out the win. The US simply did not look like themselves until the end of that fourth quarter and Cuba responded to each and every run the US made until that final stretch. Everyone got fairly even playing time except Swin Cash (maybe it isn't just Bill Lambier) who did not play, Courtney Paris and WNBA Finals MVP, Cappie Pondexter. Candace Parker looks pretty, dang dominant on both ends of the floor when she gets going. Tennessee has a great chance at another NCAA title if Pat Summitt has the right players around her this season. Particularly impressive play from Yeima Boulet Peillon (17 points, 3 rebounds) and Yakelyn Plutin Tizon (23 points, 10 rebounds) on the Cuban team.

Brazil beat Argentina 72-62 behind 22 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists from Storm starter Iziane Castro Marques, making her the third leading scorer in the tournament. Unlike her former team mate, Simone Edwards, though, Izi had some scoring help with two other players in double figures and two more close to it. Fanciele Aparecida had a double double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Argentina was led by Maria Gimena Landra (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Mariana Andrea Cava (12 points).

The only game yesterday without a current or former Storm player was a blowout 85-54 win by host nation Chile over Mexico. Chile had 5 players in double figures while Mexico had one, Brisa Margarita Silva with 21 points.

Simone will look for more help from her team on the offensive end today when the Jamaicans take on her former Storm team mate Sue Bird and Team USA. The US will look to take control early and build some momentum and consistency. The game will air on NBA TV at 10:30 AM PST. Izi and her Brazilians will face Chile 1:00 PM PST.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Updating Stats Page

I am in the process of updating my statistics page. I have added league data for 2006 and 2007, Storm data through 2007 and I am starting to add data for the rest of the league. I have finished running the numbers for the Connecticut Sun/Orlando Miracle, but it takes a while for me to build the web pages....so expect the years to add slowly...

Paul Westhead, coach of the WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury, is expected to interview for an assistant coaching position on the PJ Carlisimo's Seattle Sonics staff this week.

The NBA and Clay Bennett are strangely silent as they consider the legal fight that awaits their sneaky, manipulative little wranglings to escape the 40 year relationship between Seattle and the NBA.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Seattle Strikes Back

The city of Seattle filed a lawsuit in King County, WA today against PBC and the Seattle Sonics. The suit explains that the original lease specifically excluded the lease's term from arbitration. It also blames the 1998 NBA lockout and subsequent poor Sonics team performance for the fall from profitability. The lease was profitable for both the team and the city prior to the lockout when the team averaged close to 600,000 in yearly attendance. It is well below 500,000 at this point.

Thus begins a long, drawn out court battle that can only be stopped by Bennett selling the team to local ownership or actually MEETING with local officials to discuss a plan.

For the rest of us, it is time to wait and see what Bennett and his cronies do next.

2007 WNBA Season Numbers

Amid the swirl of political maneuvering, there is still basketball to discuss. I finally got around to running my season numbers.

Best Offenses

League Averages
Offensive Rating: 98.19 points per 100 possessions
Points Scored: 2,611 points in the season
% Offensive Rebounds: 30.49% of available offensive rebounds
% 3 point shots taken: 24.19% of shots attempted were three point shots
Free Throws Attempted: 687.42 free thows taken in the season

Phoenix lived up to its "Paul Ball" style and delivered the most points, and the most points per possession, as well as leading the league with regard to what percentage of their field goal attempts were made from beyond the three point arc. They were also the third best team in the league at getting to the free throw line and the best at avoiding turnovers. They were the leagues best offensive team and rode that to the best record in the Western Conference as well as the WNBA championship.

Seattle was next in line, with the Storm following the same trend, though they were a much better offensive rebounding team than Phoenix, though not as extreme in the other categories. They were third in the league at avoiding turnovers.

Detroit took a different path, focusing on controlling the boards and getting to the free throw line.

TeamOffensive RatingPoints Scored% Off Rebounds% 3PT ShotsFree Throws Attempted
Phoenix Mercury105.403,02522.79% (12th)33.15%(1st)754 (3rd)
Seattle Storm104.112,73431.13% (5th)28.91% (3rd)715 (6th)
Detroit Shock99.872,69732.76% (4th)19.55% (10th)785 (2nd)
Connecticut Sun99.382,67529.60% (8th)24.58% (6th)615 (10th)
Minnesota Lynx98.952,63633.17% (3rd)21.06% (8th)529 (7th)


Best Defenses

League Averages
Defensive Rating: 97.95 points per 100 possessions
Points Allowed: 2,604 points in the season
FG% Allowed: 41.9% shooting for the season
% Defensive Rebounds: 69.66% of available defensive rebounds
Opponent Turnovers: 564 turnovers in the season

Indiana was the leagues best defensive team, lacking power in only one category, that of defensive rebounding.

Detroit comes next, achieving their rank through leading the charge on the defensive boards and controlling their opponents field goal percentage.

Sacramento controls defense through causing turnovers and limiting pace but was very poor defending the shot and only mediocre on the defensive boards.

TeamDefensive RatingPoints Allowed% Def ReboundsOpp FG%Opp TOV
Indiana Fever91.072,370 (1st)68.76% (8th)40.20%(2nd)610 (2nd)
Detroit Shock94.06 2,540 (5th)75.08% (1st)39.60% (1st)529 (9th)
Sacramento Monarchs95.472,480 (2nd)70.13% (5th)42.80% (10th)649 (1st)
Connecticut Sun96.342,593 (6th)72.03% (2nd)42.10% (6th)524 (11th)
San Antonio Silver Stars96.582,484 (3rd)67.91% (9th)42.30% (8th)583 (4th)

Differential

2006 marked the first WNBA season where the team with the best regular season differential did not take home the WNBA trophy when the Connecticut Sun were eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals leaving the runner up Detroit Shock to take home the title. This year this became a new trend, with major injuries limiting the top two teams in the regular season from performing comparably in the playoffs. Phoenix became the second team to win the WNBA title without leading the league in differential. Had Detroit not suffered injuries to Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan the trend may never have been continued.

Without Sheryl Swoopes in Houston or Lisa Leslie and Chamique Holdsclaw in LA, the Comets and the Sparks fall to the bottom of the ladder for the first time in franchise histories.



TeamDifferential
Detroit Shock+5.81
Indiana Fever+4.23
Phoenix Mercury+4.22
Seattle Storm+3.31
Connecticut Sun+3.05
Sacramento Monarchs+1.80
San Antonio Silver Stars+1.28
Washington Mystics-2.02
New York Liberty-3.34
Minnesota Lynx-4.35
Houston Comets-4.50
Los Angeles Sparks-6.53

Friday, September 21, 2007

Let the Battle Begin

The Storm WILL play the 2008 season in Key Arena.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sonics/2003895555_websonics21.html

Now the legal battle begins.

Keep the Storm and the Sonics. Get rid of Bennett!

This is off the record, right?

It wasn't supposed to hit the press so soon, but it's out there now.

Chris Van Dyk and Brian Robinson fought on opposites sides of I-91, on the same side of I-93 and now Van Dyk is sharing their formerly best kept secret.

Chris and Brian have been building a consensus plan for how to refurbish Seattle Center, build a new stadium for the Sonics and Storm, leverage the existing "tourist" taxes for hotels and rental cars, the existing sales tax on restaurants and augment it with parking revenue, retail and residiential leases to revitalize what should be a great Seattle treasure. They are still finalizing their summary which should be available soon.

The magic here is that Brian and Chris have found a set of common goals on which to build a foundation for a workable plan that is a win for everyone. They are starting with an antagonistic or adversarial stance, they are starting from a partnership position. They know that they will differ along the way, but they are willing to start from the stuff they agree on rather than focus on where they differ.

That is the way things get done. If you want to see the results of the other path, take a look at the Democratic Legislative Brance trying to get things done against the veto power of the Republican Executive Branch.

When you start from agreement, compromise on differences is possible. When you start with your differences it is a much longer road to find your common ground.

The best thing from my point of view is that more and more Bennett's claim that no one in Seattle is doing anything grows weaker by the day. It is becoming more and more clear that he is the roadblock, not the city. That helps the cause of keeping the teams local more than anything else.

For my part, I am willing to get behind ANY plan that keeps the teams here as long as it is a sound plan. I am simply thrilled to see ideas get out in the public view.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Comics for Sonics

Local comedian and editor at Supersonicsoul, Paul Merrill is hosting the event to raise funds for SOS&S...

Featuring:
Riggs
Dan Moore
Travis Simmons
Harrold Gomez
Brad Upton
Surprise guest comedians
and Headlined by Seattle’s Own Rod Long

Mainstage opens at 4:00 with our famous $1 Domestics Happy Hour

Show at 7:00, with door prizes, a raffle, show tickets!
Where: Mainstage Comedy and Music Club,
315 - 1st Avenue North, Seattle WA 98109
206-317-2700
When: Tuesday, September 18th

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jumping the Gun

It looks like I was right and that someone jumped the gun. Something happened in a positive vain and somewhere along the rumor chain the details got jumbled.

The good news is that it is clear that something happened and things look better than they did last week. We'll just have to keep watching.

A Deal to Keep the Teams?

Internet rumour has hit in a big way. I don't buy this as a "done deal" and I don't accept this source out of hand. The writer is a history teacher with some political contacts.

http://thehistoryguy.typepad.com/seattle_wa_politics/blog_index.html

At the very least, it may indicate forward progress. Someone giddy at a positive step forward may have jumped the gun and leaked a "deal" message. We need to wait for the big media outlets to confirm.

Brian Robinson at SonicsCentral has heard conflicting reports that the previously scheduled Q&A session with the Muckleshoot consultant group scheduled for Monday has been suddenly cancelled and no new conference scheduled to replace it. The Muckleshoots are supposedly denying a deal.

I think we may have to ride this one out folks.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Game Four

Did I already say that I don't like Detroit?

I miss the torrid pace of games one and two, but at least Westphal made the adjustment to playing the half court game in the second half and extended the series. Cappie, I still think you earned ROY last season and you should get MVP if your team pulls out Game 5.

Can I just say, "Thank you Taurasi..." for FINALLY forcing Nolan to her right. I know (even without Doris and Geno reminding us every three seconds) that Tweety is too fast to do it every possession, but this was the one possession the effort needed to be made.

I am sick of Bill's whining, and I still can't get enough of it. The man is a master. You really do enjoy hating him and yelling at him through the TV screen.

My favorite moment is still the Snell shot in the first half where Westhead (for the first time in history) told her not to shoot and pass it back and she just let loose and hit a three. Sorry, Paul...you can't change something you worked so hard to program into them.

The loss of Ford is devastating. I want Phoenix to win...but I want them to do it by beating Ford as well. No player in the league has EVER rebounded like she does and now she can shoot the ball too. She will be league MVP some day...it is inevitable. The look on Karl's face when she went down was one many of us shared.

On to Game 5....you think they make more 5 game series next season with the current ratings? Rumor is last night got near NBA Finals ratings.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Passing on My Addiction

I still have the finals, and I am an NBA fan, so it takes a little while for my WNBA withdrawal symptoms to kick off.

My son on the other hand, has apparently got them already. He grabbed the newspaper away from his mother this morning and demanded to see LJ. She tried to explain to him that she wasn't in the paper anymore since she isn't playing and he stomped his foot and said I want to see LJ and Sue and Betty!

Fortunately I had the answer and pulled up the official end of year slideshow from the Storm homepage. He was satisfied after naming his favorite players and making comments like..."oooh, Sue looks mad....LJ is silly....look, look Betty!" Hopefully that will hold him over for a while.

Slade Gorton has gotten involved in the battle to keep the teams here locally. I'm not a big fan of the man's politics, I voted to oust him from office, but I like the celebrity involvement. I am glad to see the local pols gearing up for a fight. It has been a lonely year. I have to give a ton of credit again to the Steve Pyeatt and Brian Robinson for their excellent work mobilizing the city and other resources to get involved. Please show your support for their efforts...you may not care for the NBA or the Sonics, but they have been committed to keeping the Storm in all the discussions and treating this as a basketball issue, not an NBA issue.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

At least one more year?

Scuttlebutt from the LJ event is the word "optimistic" from Karen Bryant with regards to the Storm playing in Key Arena next summer. Last time I heard her she was definitely NOT optimistic.

I doubt it has anything to do with this week's ordinance passing, more likely it is about Clay's desire to open 2008 with the Sonics in Oklahoma, not the Storm. Hopefully he falls asleep at the wheel and KB can book the Key for next season in time for the WNBA to do their scheduling.

NBA Fans Surprised by the Finals

I read Henry Abbott everyday. His TrueHoop blog is always a good read and he has been a huge supporter on the national stage of Seattle with regards to keeping the Sonics and Storm here.

Today he shares his own take and another NBA fan's take on the finals and how surprised he was to find himself enjoying it.

My only comment is that we need the man to meet LJ and get him off the Catchings bandwagon.

As for the Detroit blogger, the best part is reading the supportive comments from Pistons fans "confessing" their new admiration of the Shock.

Game Three

Wow.

Obviously I am disappointed in the final score of the game, but it is hard to be disappointed in the overall game itself.

This WNBA finals is, like last year, proving to be a coaching battle extraordinaire. Each game is showing savvy adjustments by the coach whose team lost the last game. The key difference in this year over last is the battle of will ON the court. Last year one team or the other was in clear control in any given game based on the coaching choices. This year the coaches are just giving their team an edge and it is the will of the players that leverages that edge. Phoenix will not go down easy. When Lambier wins the coaching battle the game remains close. When Westphal wins the coaching battle, Phoenix takes over the game.

Katie Smith found her stroke finally and her play made the difference. Somehow she kept up her tireless defense while suddenly finding the ability to hit any shot she wanted. I give game three to Smith and Lambier. That tandem decided the match, though if Phoenix had been able to have a few more of their shots fall it wouldn't have mattered.

Game 4 is going to be a blistering, desert battle. Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Seattle City Council Unanimous on Keeping the Storm in Seattle

The Seattle City Council passed Ordinance #116011 with an 8-0 unanimous vote. The ordinance is

AN ORDINANCE stating the City Council's intent not to propose or to enact any
ordinance that would have the effect of approving any amendment to the Premises
Use & Occupancy Agreement between the City of Seattle and the Professional
Basketball Club, L.L.C. allowing the Seattle SuperSonics to vacate the KeyArena
prior to September 30, 2010.

As the Seattle Times states, this is symbolic at most, an attempt by the City to be heard, loud and clear, by the NBA and Clay Bennett in particular, when they say they will not let these teams leave without a fight.

Think the FBI investigation into Tim Donaghy is a pain in your neck, David Stern? How will a lawsuit from the state of Washington over breach of contract feel? How many new stadiums are you going to get for your owners when you prove that you couldn't care less about the "communities" of which your teams are a part? How many cities are going to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for worthless lease agreements you will break whenever you want by using small but eager mid-market cities with open checkbooks to bully cities into giving you whatever you want? Your league is in a mess. Be the big man, step in and fix this problem...NOW. Henry Abbott over at TrueHoop on ESPN.com is right, honesty is important and it is about time we started getting some from you and the rest of the NBA.

Brian Robinson and Steve Pyeatt have put enoromous personal effort and money into making this happen. They are true fans of basketball and true neighbors to us all. Thanks guys.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

LJ to Join Fans for Game 3 Viewing Party

If you don't know, and why on Earth wouldn't you, LJ and some of the Storm staff are having a viewing party in Seattle for Tuesday's Finals Game 3.

I was in the men's room of a sports bar down in Magnolia at the Elliott Bay Marina last night. I was washing my son's hands while chatting to a friend helping his daughter. He asked about LJ winning the MVP and I said how it was impossible for her not to given that she led the league in scoring, rebounding and missed the blocks title by a mere 3 blocks. Another guy we did not know was at the sink and turns to me saying...

"She led in points, rebounds and almost blocks? That is ridiculous." He was obviously impressed. I almost quipped, "yeah, catch her play live next season..." then I remembered they might not be here. Sigh.

Game Two

Ah, that's more like it.

Thank you, Ms. Taurasi, for responding like we all hoped you would. You were fantastic. And by the way, if you and Baron Davis do combine DNA for the worlds greatest PG battle with Sue Bird and Magic Johnson's genetic offspring I want to be his/her agent. Heck I'll take either kid in that matchup.

Is this the highest scoring WNBA finals in history?

Hey, Phoenix, after watching two days of "Detroit" basketball, do me a favor and show the league and the national television audience how a REAL city supports its team in a CHAMPIONSHIP GAME! Come on. Game one looked like 3,000 people. Game two looked better, but folks, really. In 2004 all three games, one in Connecticut and two in Seattle, were sold out. There was not an empty seat in Key Arena for either game. I know Phoenix can represent. Fill those seats. The air conditioning there can handle the heat from those hot Mercury shooters, believe me.

I think the editors at the Seattle Times are reading my blog.

From the sports editorial page today...
Jackson is like family. Storm regulars talk about how they have watched her grow and mature as a player. And Jackson has always made it clear she has made Seattle her home, and wants to keep playing here. The connection between Storm fans and the team, and with Jackson, is strong and personal.

I am so glad someone else has noticed AND bothered to write about it. She is family. She is like the little sister I never had (mine is 16 years older than me) who would have been way taller than me and probably beat me up when I told her that Marilyn Manson was lame. Maybe I am glad she wasn't my sister. She would have beat me at basketball all the time, too from the time she was like ten and was already as tall as me at 19. Sigh. Maybe my jump shot would be better, though, my buddy John could never guard me and my brother was almost 6'9" so he couldn't really play with me. He could guard my three point shot from the foul line. If he hadn't gotten so heavy in his last years he would have had a speed advantage over me as well. I mostly played point and just passed him the ball near the basket. There wasn't really anyone at the playground who could guard him down low at 6'8"+ and 380 lbs. Boy...I am rambling today. Too much dim sum.

Friday, September 07, 2007

2007 WNBA Finals

I don't like the Detroit Shock.

I like Katie Smith. I like Deanna Nolan, heck I even like Bill Lambier. I LOVE Cheryl Ford.

I just don't like the Detroit Shock.

I loved the Shock in 2003 when they unseated the LA Sparks and stopped Lisa Leslie's attempt at a three-peat and establishment of the second WNBA dynasty. I was thrilled for them. Unfortunately, with Lisa out, they are the new LA. They are the team you love to hate.

I am ticked at Diana Taurasi for letting the game and the refs get to her in game one. No matter how the game is called, Diana brought the trouble on herself. She is so much smarter than she behaved that night. She controlled her fourth, fifth and sixth fouls, not the referees. She knew they were going to make those calls, she was in control. After all the talk about wanting to follow Lebron James' example in his first finals this year she was the anti-Lebron. He channeled his frustration into passion and stepped up his game. She allowed it to erode hers. The only thing they may end up with in common is a lost opportunity.

On a nicer note. LJ finally won the MVP officially. We already knew it, but it was a real treat to see her sitting courtside with Tully having so much fun. I was very happy for her.

Kevin Pelton interviewed her and got this little tidbit...



Seattle's definitely been wonderful for me. I love it there. It's been fantastic to me. The city itself, it couldn't be better. I'll raise my family there if I ever have one. The fans have been so passionate and have supported me throughout my career. My relationship with Seattle and the people there, it's never been better and every year it gets stronger.



Can you imagine a pack of little LJ's running around splashing in the International fountain? I, for one, am honored that she thinks so highly of our city. I chose it as the place I wanted to raise my family, too.

Do our local politicians and community members realize what they have in this woman? Do they realize what an ambassador she is for our city? Here is a person from across the world who LOVES her homeland, but she would choose Seattle as the place to raise her family. She is perhaps the best female basketball player in the world and she has completely adopted our city over all the others she has visited and played for. On top of that she raves about our city to everyone who asks in the media. What other pro athlete has done that for us lately? Were any of them at the top of their sport with multiple MVP awards and a league championship under their belt? LJ and her Australian team may knock the USA off at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but she still would want to raise her family here in our city.

Watch what she had to say when interviewed at halftime on ESPN...

Do you really want to let someone that special be sullied by owners from out of town who don't seem to care in the least about our city? The movers and shakers of this city need to get off their backsides and put together local ownership and a plan for where these teams will play in the next few years. They need to do it now. We don't need quiet, backroom meetings. We need people in the media making noise. We need someone telling David Stern that we care and that we know we can come up with a solution. They need to say flat out that Clay Bennett is the problem. They need to say that they can't negotiate with someone who won't sit down at the table with them. We need some action. Get to it folks.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Conference Finals

The 2007 WNBA Conference Finals have each logged a game and they continue the trend this post-season of highly competitive and exciting games. Phoenix is the only team to win on the road and the only undefeated team so far this post-season. There are those that would dispute their right to that status since their win on Friday in San Antonio was off last second free throws awarded on a questionable call by referee Lisa Mattingly. I would have liked to see the players decide such a closely fought game in overtime. Detroit and Indiana showed the opposite end of the spectrum from the furious pace in the Western Conference by playing a defensive battle. In the West it is about who gets to 100 first. In the East it is about who gets to 60 first.

Outside of enduring the Storm's third first round loss in a row, I have really enjoyed the playoffs this year. Watching the two conference finals series, I can't see Indiana beating Phoenix or San Antonio, but I can't see Detroit beating Indiana. Outside of last minute gaffes in game 1, Phoenix has looked unstoppable in the post season. Everyone on that team is playing fantastic basketball. If they reign in their last minute sloppiness they will cruise to brininging Phoenix's first basketball title. The NBA's Sun have gotten to the finals twice, in 1993 and 1976 but were beaten by Dynasty teams like the Bulls in the 90's and the Celtics in the 70's. Detroit has only won two championships, though a third would make a the term dynasty possible for the WNBA who has only one team (Houston) with more than two championships. That would give them 27% of the available WNBA titles. If Detroit played their best basketball they might have a chance against Phoenix, but Indiana simply doesn't have the offense to win against the Mercury. Detroit isn't playing their best basketball right now. They have played solid defense so far but their offense has been spotty with only two players showing up offensively in any given game. If they want to beat Indiana then Pierson, Nolan, Smith and Ford will have to come up big and they will need better performances out of Braxton, Feenstra, Johnson and Latta.

On a humorous note, Connor was watching the first half of the Shock/Fever game with me last night and suddenly says, "Dada, do some people think this is a fighting game? Cause they are fighting." Out of the mouths of babes indeed. The intensity of these playoffs is high. I told him that Tully and Sheri were LJ's friends and he said, "So the blue team is evil. Go white team!"

The Storm sent a "Thank You" from Lauren Jackson. She calls Seattle "the only place to play." I say thank you to LJ and the team for giving us something worth cheering for.

There is a lot moving on the Clay Bennett vs. the Real World front as well. My big concern is that Clay has something else up his sleeve and I don't have a hint of what it might be. We have a few tricks up our sleeve as well, but I would rather have some more insight into what he is planning next.

NBA fans have started creating internet banner graphics supporting Seattle. You can see one at the top of this page. There is solidarity among fans that these mid-market teams should not be allowed to over pay for big city teams. It makes it impossible for major cities to have fair negotiations with the teams. I think expansion is a bettter answer than letting these smaller cities be used as leverage by teams to blackmail larger cities into giving up whatever the teams want. Stern says that teams are integral parts of the community but they come off as pure opportunistic bullies every few years with new demands and hints of moving to other cities who "want" them around. A line has to be drawn somewhere. Legally binding leases must be honored. Cities have agreed to build or remodel facilities for these teams under the belief that teams will stick around for 10, 15 or 20 years as stipulated in lease agreements. If the courts let teams get out of those agreements then that belief vanishes. If Clay gets to leave Seattle then Sacramento and Orlando better make sure that they find new ways to write leases so that it doesn't happen to them, too.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's over, but is it really over?

The Storm took too long to find their hunger to win. I can't say why, and it doesn't really matter in the end either way. Three years, three first round exits. It seems like the player pieces are there. Outside of a true backup point guard, one who plays aggressive, full court defense, penetrates and can hit the open three, the core roster is pretty darn good. Talent wise and ability wise this looks like a roster that should win more than it does. Yet, again and again it simply doesn't.

Do they tweak again? Do they overhaul the roster around Bird and Jackson? Do they look at changes to the coach and/or GM? Phoenix added a strong GM and went from bubble team to dominant force. It is something to think about. Do the players need a new voice in the locker room or does the coach need some new players?

Does any of this matter?

Will the Storm be here next year?

I told ESPN.com on Friday night that my hope is that the NBA steps in and solves the problem here like the NFL did for Cleveland in the 90's. The NBA makes sure that the people of Oklahoma City (a fine city with noble people whose triumph after the tragedy of the Federal Building terrorist bombing is all but lost in the shadow of NYC and the twin towers), Clay Bennett, Aubrey McClendon and their partners receive the greatly desired and deserved NBA team. David Stern and his organization keep the Sonics and Storm in Seattle. Sell our teams to local owners and grant Oklahoma City an expansion franchise. Let them take Presti and Carlismo if they so desire. Just keep our teams here. I even told the reporter that I would take just one team if that was all I could have. I told him I would take the Storm.

I love basketball. I have been a Sonics fan since before I moved to Seattle. The Sonics are just a basketball team, though. The Storm are my family. The fans of the Storm in this city, those I know by face and those I know by internet handle only, they are my family, too. My three year old son knew Lauren Jackson's name before he knew Ray Allen. He has never asked to play let's pretend and be a Sonic player. When he plays basketball, he is ALWAYS LJ. Your first love never leaves your mind, and the Storm will always be the first team he loved. I want to hold on to them for him as long as I can.

My hopes for the Seattle Storm now lie in the hands of local politicians, local wealth, the legal system as well as with David Stern and the NBA.

I wrote Seattle City council member Richard McIver last week about this issue and his response is the best I have heard in over a year...

I think all of us would be saddened if the team leaves Seattle, as appears to be
the intent of team ownership. It is my hope that enacting this legislation would
help to keep them in Seattle, if through no other way than by letting the NBA
know that we both want to keep the team and that we’ll use the legal tools we
have available to do that and to protect our own financial interests.

It will be tough. Oklahoma City is apparently ready to cover all the costs for Bennett's group to relocate and fight a legal battle to escape their lease. I hope that Orlando and Sacramento watch these events closely to see whether they should think twice about signing long term leases with NBA franchises. If we can be robbed of our teams despite a long term lease than they will forever be held ransom by the NBA as well.

There are people here that care. I have met some of them, I am meeting some more of them tonight. None of these people really have the power or the money to make a significant difference. Our best hope is to rally enough to get the people with money and power to act publicly.

If you or someone you know has the power or the money, please step forward. Take action. Be a local hero.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Just Not Ready Yet.

I can't do it yet.

Last night was too hard.

It was not hard because the Storm lost, they still have two more games in this series.

It was the possibility of it being the last Storm game in the Key, the last game I get to see a Bird/Jackson pick and roll, the last time I get to see an Lauren Jackson turnaround fadeaway on the baseline, the last time I see Izi turn on the turbos and beat everyone to the hoop on the break, the last time I see Betty drive to the hole, score and draw the foul (or several at the same time), the last time I see A-Rob soar wrists above the rim for a rebound or a block.

I'm just not ready.

I start to think I am ready and I read that LJ almost lost it when we gave our standing ovation at the end of the game. I'm still not ready. I'm not used to this. I was MAD when Gary Payton was traded. I was ticked that we let Tully go to Indiana. It was not so visceral, so emotional. I've asked it before. What is it that these women do to me that I feel something closer than just a sports fan relationship with them.

Why does it feel personal?

Why does it feel like I am in a custody battle with some distant, wealthy relative from Oklahoma City who thinks I am not raising my child right?

Phoenix Mercury player Kelly Schumacher said it right on the flight from JFK to SEA when I sat with her after the 2006 All-Star Game. "Not with your girls, huh?" She was right. They are my girls. Even though Wendy, Astou and Betty are just a couple of years younger than me, they are still my girls. I feel like I have been there while LJ has blossomed from this shy, young phenom into one hell of a bad ass on the court and that makes me a part of it. My youngest son has grown up with this team. LJ is the first basketball player whose name he knew. He was saying "LJ for 3!" by the end of last season at the age of 2 1/2. He has been to NBA games, he has seen them on TV, but if you ask him who the best basketball player in the world is, he doesn't even blink before saying, LJ. The Storm are a big part of the relationship I have with him. Going to Storm games is our special thing. We go to them, just the two of us. Mom and his big brother come to some, but really, it is our thing.

I am sure Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon don't care about that. Why should they? I only spend a few hundred dollars a year on Storm tickets and a thousand or so on Sonics tickets...why should that matter to them? I didn't make around $2.5 million in salary last year like Aubrey did...and my stock options were measured in thousands, not hundreds of millions. People like my son and I don't show up on their radar. We are like those annoying No-See-Um bugs I grew up with in New England, invisible pests you wish you could just get rid of.

I realize I will get over it should they rip our teams from our embrace. After all, there are certainly more important things in life. My dreams this week have been filled with ghosts of miners, storms, burning planes and collapsing bridges. Wars are being waged and innocents are dying around the globe. I do have perspective in all this. They are still my girls. Whether they win or lose tomorrow, they will still be my girls. I will watch the game and share in their joy or their frustration just like I do each game. Then I will compartmentalize my feelings, do what I can, and edge slowly towards the looming month of December.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Round 1, Game 1

One of the problems with being a fan blogger is that it is virtually impossible to separate my emotions about the game from my thoughts on the game.

As a result, I am simply hitting my head on my desk whenever I try to write about the game.

Since I am convinced that my thoughts about basketball will be utterly useless until tomorrow I will redirect your attentions to others more impartial than I who have put out things worth reading today.

Steve Kelley @ the Seattle Times
I know people who despise Kelley's work. I am not one of them, though I am not quite a fan either. He has written a fantastic piece on Lauren Jackson that made me happy and sad all at once. Happy that LJ is being recognized. Sad that my son may not have the chance to grow up watching his favorite basketball player in the world play live in his hometown at least 17 times each summer. I've always imagined that someday he would be old enough to actually face his hero and tell her what a fan he is of her game. She is the first basketball player whose name he knew and she is such a factor in his rich imagination that she shares superhero status with the likes of Spiderman, Superman, Knuckles and McQueen. (Note that she is the only one of those heroes that does NOT wear red.) He talks about how he wants to say hi to her but that he is too shy. Twice now he has hidden when he got too close to her. When people observe his gregarious nature and say, "My he certainly isn't shy." he instantly replies, "I am shy of LJ." I love the game of basketball and I am thrilled that Lauren Jackson was the person who introduced my son to the game, what better tour guide/role model could you ask for? It will really be a shame if the current stalemate between ownership and the region robs him of the chance to grow up with that same role model. I have had to wipe more than one tear out from under my glasses while writing this, so it is time to move on.

Darren Fessenden @ the Seattle PI
I picked on Darren for mistakes in his first few articles at the start of the season, and noted his improvement part way through. Here I commend him for his choice of topic and quality reporting on Ashley Robinson and her impact on the starting lineup. Good eye, Darren, you have come a long way this season and I am thrilled that you made me feel guilty for my first comments. In some ways talking about LJ, Sue or the links between the two teams is probably the easy way out. You took the hard road and navigated it admirably. For anyone who reads this blog regularly, I have been raving about Ashley in the starting lineup since the beginning of the season. I believe that she is key to the end of season resurgance. Darren agrees as well wins the most innovative playoff story of the week award. Wish I had a trophy to give you...maybe a Sue Bird bobblehead will do?

Jim McGrath @ the Tacoma News Tribune
Jim McGrath calls out David Stern and the NBA for fining a man for telling the truth instead of fining his partner for lying. I am glad that the NBA responded in some way to this idiocy, but Jim is right, it is Bennett who should be slapped, not McClendon.

Now I can get pumped for this game. I will be there, solo since my little one is still on vacation, and I will be loud. I will also be there early because there is not a chance that I will be missing our own BAMFX when she gets her first Defensive Player of the Year award.

Enemy of the People

I met with the "expanded" team from Save Our Sonics and Storm last night and it was a good meeting. Storm and Sonic fans getting together to talk about where things are at the moment. It is sad to see that the movement has had to take an antagonistic stance against the team, but the ownership team has backed SOS&S into a corner.

Recently comments were made by minority Owner Aubrey McClendon in the press stating that the owners bought the teams to bring them to Oklahoma City and never intended to be in Seattle. This week the NBA fined McClendon $250,000 for the comments. Clay Bennett keeps telling everyone that Seattle isn't interested and hasn't made any "reasonable" offers, but the Governor, the Mayor, the City Council and representatives of the State Legislature have all made public statements and private gestures that have been rebuffed. On his part he has done NOTHING since his demand for $300M in public money was denied last winter. He did offer to meet with the Mayor but then bailed when he learned that buying a way out of the lease so he could relocate was not on the table.

When past behaviour by Bennett and his team are viewed in light of McClendon's comments, my perception leans toward a strategy of bait and switch, subversion, lies and underhanded dealings. SOS&S was very open and tried to work together with Bennett from the start. He was taken at his word and there was, on the surface, a spirit of cooperation between the ownership and SOS&S. That turned out to be honest spirit on the part of former ownership and pretense on the part of current ownership. SOS&S was told to hold off repeatedly on fan events and anything that might draw attention or press to the local fans and away from the arena proposal. In hindsight that is EXACTLY what you want if you intend to propose something ridiculous to an elected body. If you don't want it to pass, make it ridiculous and make sure there is NO VISIBLE FAN SUPPORT! Then you can make sure to use words like "apathy" when discussing local support. You can complain about lack of letters to the editor and radio talk show callers. Of course you don't have that if you tell your fan organizers NOT TO ORGANIZE! Give people "access" to make them overlook the fact that what you are asking them to do makes no sense and lull them into a sense of complacency. Then when the gig is up and you have been called out, be sure to cut them off immediately.

I no longer believe that Bennett is genuine. I think the man is a savvy business owner that is willing to walk on both sides of the ethical line to get what he wants. As a corporate person myself, I know the type. They seem genuine and honest and ethical until the final trap is sprung. I have seen the tactic played to make a sales opportunity look realistic enough to get me to compete only to find in the end that I was just a tool to leverage the incumbant to lower their pricing. The excuse is always realistic when the sale is lost, but it is never aligned with the guidance or coaching provided during the sale. Bennett is the kind of businessman that I would work with, but I would never feel fully comfortable with. I would be looking for coaching from his board of directors, his administrative assistant or disgruntled staff whenever I was dealing directly with him.

I would love to be proven wrong. I don't know the man. I have never dealt with either the man himself or his staff (other than my ticket reps who are GREAT.) These OPINIONS are formed purely on external observation of behaviour. Frankly, if Bennett cared what anyone in Seattle thought he could take steps to improve his public image. I suppose it is hard to ensure a positive image without action in a town where your wife's family doesn't own all the media outlets. Perhaps he is new at this from that perspective.

Here are five steps I think Bennett could take to improve his image in Seattle.

1) MEET with local officials, in person and actually TALK to them.

2) Publicly provide a list of requirements to quantify the term "reasonable" with regard to a new or modified arena.

3) Hold a "town meeting" with fans where he takes responsibility for mistakes made by the ownership team and presents a plan to move forward.

4) Add a prominant local owner to the ownership group.

5) Come to a Storm playoff game and address the crowd. Thank them for standing by the team all season and congratulate Karen Bryant, the players and the coaches for consistently putting top quality professional basketball in this city year after year. Acknowledge Lauren Jackson for the OUTSTANDING performance she has given this year. Finally, promise to bring the same level of passion the player and fans bring to each game to finding a solution that keeps the Storm in Seattle. This of course requires the Storm to WIN Round 1.

I had to spew my thoughts on this, but I promise, I will be back to basketball now that I have that off my chest.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Playoff Passion

video

All of the photos in the above movie are the exclusive property of Getty Images and have been used without permission. The music in the video is the song "Victory" by Lourds Lane which has also been used without permission. Should the owners of the content object to my usage of this material to demonstrate my personal passion about the 2007 WNBA playoffs, I will immediately pull it from the blog.

Monday, August 20, 2007

2007 Storm Season

Season Summary
This was a very difficult season. Things looked good early. Lauren Jackson was healthy and having fun with the game again. Janell Burse was ready to play and had little injury to her shoulder in the off season. Betty and Izi were shooting the ball incredibly well. Wendy Palmer was back to bolster the bench and with rookie shooter Katie Gearlds and dispersal draft pickup Tye'sha Fluker were ready to join veterans Tanisha Wright, Ashley Robinson, Francesca Zara and Barb Turner to offer one of the deepest rotations the Storm had had since 2004.

Problem Number 1: STILL NO BACKUP POINT GUARD. Zara didn't return from Russia with Sue and Lauren leaving Tanisha Wright as the backup point. Word was that T was having a great camp, but she ended up injured before camp was over.

Problem Number 2: A mysterious rift opened between Barb Turner and Coach Donovan when BT did not return from overseas play until the last possible moment, actually skipping her team's championship game to get back before it was too late. Unfortunately, it was already too late and BT was cut after failing to demonstrate that she was an improvement over free agent Shyra Ely who had a strong camp and offered a few inches of height over Turner.

Problem Number 3: Janell Burse developed multiple personality disorder on the court. She started off the season like this

Game 1: 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block in 13 minutes
Game 2: 13 points, 19 rebounds, 1 block in 26 minutes
Game 3: 19 points, 11 rebounds in 34 minutes.
Game 4: 8 points, 7 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Game 5: 10 points, 0 rebounds in 29 minutes.
Game 6: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block in 25 minutes.
Game 7: 11 points, 9 rebounds, in 25 minutes.
Game 8: 18 Points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks in 26 minutes.

Her inconsistency really hurt the Storm until she finally decided to sit out the end of the season to have surgery on her injured wrist.

Problem Number 4: Chemistry. Something happened to this team and it was not good. They seemed to be unable to execute on the game plans developed by their coaches, and they were turning the ball over and allowing their already porous perimeter defense to become even more of a problem. Anne Donovan took a lot of heat in the press and on fan sites with people calling for her to quit her GM role or be fired altogether. These feelings degenerated even worse as calls for her removal as Team USA head coach began to emerge as well. The bench seemed incapable of contributing. Coach Donovan relied heavily on Palmer, Wright and Robinson, but the fourth person shifted repeated throughout the season between Katie Gearlds and Shyra Ely.

Problem Number 5: Injuries. Sue Bird had knee surgery right before the All Star break. JB had wrist surgery at the tail end of the season and still has a lingering issue with her shoulder that she declines to address. LJ developed swelling behind one knee and needed to wear a compression sleeve to manage the pain and also suffered a death in the family which took her away from the team for two games. Betty Lennox has struggled through physical pain and emotional turmoil for most of the season. Turner and Fluker were cut, as was ShonaThorburn. Veterans Doneeka Lewis and Astou Ndiaye-Diatta were picked up to close out the season as insurance against injury.

All in all, the season was a major disappointment with the Storm barely making it to .500 and their worst record since Lauren Jackson's 2001 rookie season. They were abused by the best teams in the league, swept by San Antonio, Sacramento, Detroit and Connecticut. Their only wins against the top of the league were two solid wins at home over Western Conference leading Phoenix and one home win against Indiana in a game where their star, Tamika Catchings was out with injury.

The good news is that the team seems to be playing the best basketball of its season as they prepare to face the only playoff team they have proven they can beat in the Phoenix Mercury. Can they finally break back out of the first round after two years of disappointing game three losses?

By the Numbers

Shooting
There is no real surprise that the post players have the best percentages on the team, with the amazing Lauren Jackson leading the pack. Izi and Betty had great seasons, though Izi's numbers were down a bit from last season. It was Betty Lennox and Tanisha who improved over last season adding 2-6% points to their shooting numbers. Sue Bird had her worst year ever, dropping of 10-15 percentage points on her 2006 numbers. Katie Gearlds shot about the same as Barb Turner did last year, but got to the line less lowering her Floor %.

As a team, the Storm took more three point shots than last year...up 7% to 29% of their shots were threes, but they shot about the same. They defended the three worse this year, allowing 37% shooting from beyond the arc to last season's 34%.

PlayerFloor %Eff FG%
Lauren Jackson57%57%
Janell Burse48%44%
Iziane Castro Marques47%51%
Betty Lennox47%48%
Wendy Palmer47%43%
Sue Bird45%51%
Katie Gearlds44%48%
Tanisha Wright42%42%
Shyra Ely39%36%
Doneeka Lewis33%31%
Astou Ndiaye-Diatta32%36%
Shona Thorburn22%50%
Tye'sha Fluker10%0%



Ratings
Here we see bigger differences in player performances from 2006. Lauren Jackson had fantastic numbers this year, leading the league in rebounds, scoring, efficiency and missing the top blocking spot by 2 blocks. She was less efficent than last year however, with her ratings dropping seven points per 100 possessions. Betty Lennox more than made up for that by increasing her ratings by 11 points per 100 possessions. Janell Burse dropped by almost eight points and Izi was up eight points. Katie Gearlds offered a slight boost of 2 points per 100 possessions over Barb Turner from last season. Wendy was an improvement of 7 points per 100 possessions over Tiffany Johnson and Shyra Ely was an offensive improvement over Shaun Gortman.

As a team the Storm averaged almost one more possession per game and were up two and a half points per 100 possessions over last season.

PlayerOffensive RatingIndividual RatingEfficiency Rating
Lauren Jackson126.69111.7629.58
Iziane Castro Marques109.2096.6912.00
Sue Bird103.6493.2011.31
Betty Lennox104.2591.0414.03
Katie Gearlds106.3389.774.36
Janell Burse96.8578.6811.76
Wendy Palmer97.6678.458.09
Tanisha Wright89.7877.825.09
Shyra Ely83.0367.52.48
Doneeka Lewis71.0661.951.00
Ashley Robinson72.4749.815.03
Astou Ndiaye-Diatta64.4044.932.50
Shona Thorburn44.7342.050.00
Tye'sha Fluker18.497.20-0.11


Plus/Minus

No surprise that LJ is the top of the pack, she happens to head the league as well in this area based on pd_swanson's season numbers. Right behind her is Izi who made such a huge leap forward offensively without giving up her defensive strengths. She took more shots than last year but didn't lose a step on her efficiency. The starters were fantastic this year as Sue and Betty posted greater than 100 net plus/minus as well. All five of the starters for the playoffs post a positve Net plus/minus for the season.

PlayerNetNet40Net per Game
Lauren Jackson+322+12.63+10.39
Iziane Castro Marques+281+11.67+8.26
Sue Bird+234+10.18+8.07
Betty Lennox+117+4.99+3.44
Ashley Robinson+3+0.29+0.09
Doneeka Lewis-19-23.03-3.17
Shona Thorburn-24-120.00-12.00
Tye'sha Fluker-56-72.26-6.22
Astou Ndiaye-Diatta-81-55.86-20.25
Wendy Palmer-107-9.03-3.15
Janell Burse-108-6.09-3.72
Shyra Ely-152-21.56-5.24
Tanisha Wright-167-12.21-4.91
Katie Gearlds-197-18.03-5.97

Top 10 Most Effective Lineups

I said at the start of the season that Ashley Robinson in the starting lineup was my favorite lineup and it proves out to be the most effective one as well. All of this bodes well for the playoffs.

LineupPlus/Minus
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Robinson+91
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Burse+64
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Palmer+35
Wright-Gearlds-Castro-Jackson-Palmer+15
Wright-Gearlds-Castro-Jackson-Robinson+11
Bird-Wright-Castro-Jackson-Robinson+11
Bird-Lennox-Gearlds-Jackson-Robinson+11
Bird-Wright-Gearlds-Jackson-Palmer+10
Bird-Gearlds-Castro-Jackson-Burse+10
Wright-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Palmer+9

Top 10 Most Used Lineups

LineupPlus/Minus
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Burse+64
Wright-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Burse-10
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Robinson+91
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Palmer+35
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Palmer-Burse-7
Wright-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Robinson-11
Bird-Gearlds-Castro-Jackson-Burse+10
Bird-Wright-Castro-Jackson-Palmer+8
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Palmer-Robinson+4
Bird-Lennox-Ely-Jackson-Burse+6

Most Effective Player Pairs

Castro/Jackson: +260
Bird/Jackson: +216
Lennox/Jackson: +198
Bird/Castro: +196
Lennox/Castro: +168
Bird/Lennox: +160
Jackson/Robinson: +120
Bird/Robinson: +80
Castro/Robinson: +77
Jackson/Palmer: +73

Saturday, August 18, 2007

8-17 Storm vs. Sparks

That was the most fun I have had at a game in a long time. It was like the OLD Key Arena crowd from two years ago and beyond was in attendance. It was also like the Storm of OLD were back on the court.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE Ashley in the starting lineup? Wait until you see the year's numbers tomorrow...

Tanisha had a very nice game as well.

Most Effective Shooters

PlayerFloor %Eff FG%
Wendy Palmer100%100%
Astou Ndiaye-Diatta100%100%
Lauren Jackson69%61%

Best Ratings
PlayerOffensive RatingIndividual Rating
Wendy Palmer215.43202.88
Astou Ndiaye-Diatta200.00181.08
Lauren Jackson163.11144.36




Best Plus/Minus
Iziane Castro Marques: +28
Ashley Robinson: +26
Lauren Jackson: +21
Sue Bird: +18
Tanisha Wright: +14

Most Effective Lineups
Bird-Wright-Castro-Jackson-Robinson: +12
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Robinson: +11

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Best Rookies Ever?

After the 2006 Rookie of the Year race and the simply phoenomal performance by the top two candidates, this year has been rather ho hum. Sure Lindsey Harding had a chance to nab the Lynx its third ROY and the second in a row, but frankly, she just wasn't that exciting. I know Marta Fernandez was playing fine basketball down in LA, but the woman is 25 years old, with a bevy of international experience under her belt. At least when Lauren Jackson was competing for the award with international experience under her belt she was younger than all the other rookies in contention.

All this pontification led me to think about how good those two rookie women were last year, and to wonder if they might have been the best ever. I learned quite a few things in running the numbers, including a couple of surprises. Unfortunately I was unable to run the numbers for the inaugural winner of the ROY, Tracy Reid who won while playing with the Charlotte Sting. When the franchise folded this year the league pulled all of the team statistics prior to 2006 off the web.

NOTE: THANKS TO pd_swanson THE DATA BELOW HAS BEEN UPDATED TO INCLUDE TRACY REID'S 1998 ROOKIE DATA.

Surprise Number 1

Cappie Pondexter was ROBBED!

No offense meant to Seimone Augustus, she is the second best player to ever be awarded the Rookie of the Year honor, she just wasn't the best rookie last season, not even close.
AugustusPondexter
Floor %50%53%
Eff FG%48%49%
Off. Rtg.107.27117.24
Indiv. Rating93.14100.88

She scored more points (120 more), had more rebounds (21 more) and had more blocks (14 more) than Cappie, but Cappie led in assists (48 more), steals (16 more) and had less turnovers (26 less). To top it off, Augustus was the number one option for the Lynx, but Cappie shared the spotlight with scoring leader Taurasi and Penny Taylor.

Surpise Number 2

The only other tightly contested race I could remember was the 2001 race between Jackie Stiles and Lauren Jackson. Stiles won and my numbers back up that decision. I had always believed that LJ was robbed, but Stiles led Lauren in eFG%, offensive rating and individual rating. In fact, LJ isn't even the best Storm player to ever be in the ROY race. Betty Lennox was a better overall rookie in 2000 than LJ was in 2001. Of course, LJ won the league MVP in 2003 when most players her age would have been juniors in college, but that is a different argument entirely.

So Who Were The Best Rookies Ever?

Tamika Catchings was the best all around rookie when she won the award in 2002. She was actually drafted in 2001, but an injury held her out for the full 2001 season and she dominated the 2002 race.

PlayerFloor %Eff FG%Off. RtgIndiv. Rtg.
Tamika Catchings51%51%116.99101.23
Cappie Pondexter53%49%117.24100.88
Seimone Augustus50%48%107.2793.14
Temeka Johnson47%48%100.1291.40
Diana Taurasi46%48%103.0091.22
Jackie Stiles45%47%101.6689.36
Betty Lennox45%49%99.7587.24
Tracy Reid51%49%100.6485.69
Lauren Jackson46%42%100.8582.06
Chamique Holdsclaw46%44%94.8681.38
Cheryl Ford49%47%97.8280.36

From an individual perspective, Cheryl Ford is by far the best rebounder the league has ever seen, and she was the best rebounding rookie ever as well. Lauren Jackson is the best shot blocker of the rookies while no one comes close to Tamika Catchings when it comes to steals. Temeka Johnson was the best passer and Seimone Augustus was far and away the best scorer of the bunch. The recent retiree, Chamique Holdsclaw holds the dubious honor of the most turnovers among ROY winners.

One interesting point, is that with the exception of Tamika Catchings, a truly rare all around player, the ROY's have been getting steadily better over the years. This year, like 2003, is likely to show a drop due to the shocking leap forward by players in the year that preceded it. Only time will tell if the climb continues in future years.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

8-14 Storm vs. Lynx

Note to Ashley Robinson:
If you are going to try and show up your internet naysayers (myself included with those at stormfans.org and Rebkell) by coming out with an offensive barrage in every game, then we will keep picking on your one area of "development." Wow. You had the Lynx in a panic to start the game. You looked like you might set a career high in the first half. Keep up the rebounding and defense and we'll take those points, too.

It is a win and one game closer to .500 basketball. I should just leave it at that. I simply can't. There was too much wrong about last night to just let it sit around unsaid. The Lynx are not a bad team, but they aren't that good either, not without their starting point guard and despite how amazing Seimone Augustus may be (more on that later). I realize that the Storm are already in the playoffs and these last games are meaningless. I realize that LJ is emotionally and physically exhausted. None of that excuses 20 turnovers. You can't blame the bench, ladies...they had just 2 (of course they barely played, but that is a different gripe). Betty and LJ had some seriously sloppy play and accounted for half the miscues. That is unacceptable. Sue and Izi were the other half, but most of those (subjectively) were under intense defensive pressure. It is also about WHEN the turnovers occurred. Leads were surrendered in seconds and potential momentum to break the game open was lost in single broken plays. It seemed to me that half of Betty and LJ's TOV's were just due to lack of focus and sloppy play. Phoenix, San Antonio and Sacramento will EAT YOU ALIVE with play like that in the post season.

An otherwise solid first half fell apart in the final 2:48 with a -9 run including two turnovers by Lauren Jackson (creating 5 points by Augustus) which left a solid 12 point lead at only 3. In the third quarter the Storm repeatedly turned the ball over...mostly LJ who bookended a Betty layup with her other two turnovers. The Storm were saved in the fourth quarter by solid defense and solid free throw shooting, as well as Wendy Palmer's play off the bench.

It was still a win, but we need better next week.

On the personal side of things, my ticket rep, Katie Dahl, stopped by to say hi and share birthday greetings for my older son (who was not in attendance). She told me she got my email to her (and to Karen Bryant) about my disappointment in the recent quotes by Aubrey McClendon, but had little to say on the topic. I renewed by season tickets because of the guarantee (as pointed out by a reader of this blog) but I am still feeling abused by the ownership of these teams. I won't likely even make most of the games next summer (if they happen here) since I will be out of town while my house is under construction. Ah, well, I am sucker for the Storm.

Most Effective Shooters

PlayerFloor %Eff FG%
Wendy Palmer61%69%
Iziane Castro Marques51%63%
Betty Lennox47%71%



Best Ratings

PlayerOff RatingIndiv. Rating
Wendy Palmer130.77119.36
Iziane Castro Marques119.85111.56
Betty Lennox102.7698.63



Best Plus/Minus
I whined about the all negative numbers in the Shock game, so I will praise the all positive numbers from last night. Every player who played in the game was at least a +7 for the night.


Ashley Robinson: +11
Iziane Castro Marques: +11
Lauren Jackson: +9
Katie Gearlds: +9
Betty Lennox: +8
Wendy Palmer: +8
Sue Bird: +7
Tanisha Wright: +7

Most Effective Lineups
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Palmer: +6
Wright-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Robinson: +6
Bird-Gearlds-Castro-Jackson-Robinson: +4

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

8-11 Storm vs. Mystics

Ah.

This was a welcome relief after the previous road trip. LJ comes back and the whole team picks itself up. Let's just hope it is a sign of things to come.

Poor LJ, she looked like she was going to vomit everytime she stood at the free throw line in the first half. Betty was VINTAGE B-Money. Sue played like she did her first year with the team, fearless.

I really like the look of Ashley in the starting lineup. For the season Jackson/Robinson is +87 and Jackson/Burse is only +41. Bird/Robinson is +55 while Bird/Burse is only +11. Lennox/Robinson is +53 while Lennox/Burse is only +13. Only Izi has solid numbers with both (Burse: +45, Robinson: +43). The whole starting lineup with Ashley is +83 while it is only +64 with Burse, and that is ALL defense folks. 19 points better defensively matters a lot to a team that lost a slew of close games this year.

When JB is healthy she is a good defender/rebounder and a far superior scorer than Ashley. Unfortunately I don't think JB has been healthy for the past two seasons.

Most Effective Shooters

PlayerFloor %Eff FG%
Tanisha Wright100%0%
Betty Lennox73%67%
Katie Gearlds58%71%
Sue Bird55%77%
Lauren Jackson50%45%

Best Ratings

PlayerOff RatingIndiv. Rating
Tanisha Wright225.0200.0
Betty Lennox151.54139.51
Katie Gearlds145.32133.77
Doneeka Lewis139.40128.15
Sue Bird131.40128.04
Lauren Jackson117.48101.95

Best Plus/Minus
Sue Bird: +34
Lauren Jackson: +33
Ashley Robinson: +27
Iziane Castro Marques: +27
Betty Lennox: +20


Most Effective Lineup
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Robinson: +34

How important is the bench? Well the starters dominated this game, but notice that Wright and Lewis show up in the ratings area...Tanisha played 17 minutes without taking a shot but had two rebounds, two assists and NO turnovers, while Doneeka played 5 minutes with 1-2 shooting, 2 assists, 2 points and NO turnovers. The Storm did not lose ground when the backcourt was resting and I absolutely LOVED that AD ran every play at the end of the game for Katie Gearlds. She was the only scorer out there and they ran the offense off of her.

Tonight is another chance to push towards .500 and repay a team that beat the Storm when they were down.