Fans on some of the most popular fan forums like Stormfans.org and Rebkell have complained in the past about Iziane Castro-Marques. There was a lot of talk last year that Barb Turner would replace her in the starting lineup (which did happen for a number of games in the middle of the season) and this year there was a lot of talk that she wouldn't be signed again this offseason. Once Gearlds was drafted some have suggested that Izi would be replaced in the starting lineup by this year's rookie.
I have loved Izi since she first came to Seattle. Watching her recklessly run the floor with such speed was exhilirating, even when she was a still a little out of control and not quite able to finish early on. I think mostly it is that amazing, infectious smile. She has such serious intensity on the floor, but when the whistle blows for a timeout or the buzzer ends the game and she just radiates joy and fun. David Locke got a lot of criticism by fans of opposing teams last year for his homerism in his broadcasts, but David has always let his emotion and passion come through in his game calling and Izi got him as well with his "Izi, Izi, Izi!" call when she gets out on the break for a layup or hits the open three. I remember the first time David dragged Izi out in front of the crowd after a game where she first came up big. She was half shy, tentative with her English and obviously overwhelmed by the adoration being showered on her. This year she said (I wish I could remember where...) that when she was slumping last season it was the fan support that helped bring her out of the slump and back into the starting lineup. (While that was a generous statement, Izi earned that on the road with back to back solid performances including her career high 26 points against the Liberty in Madison Square Garden.) She is more confident, and comfortable now, and that smile just lights up the arena when she turns it on.
I mentioned yesterday that the lineup +/- for the starters seemed less dependant on who played the three than any other position. That even made me question where Iziane will fit in this year. Then I went back to look at the other numbers and was reminded that it is not just her speed and defense that earns her the start. She is not flashy, and she doesn't look to score, but when she tries to score, she is the fifth best Floor % option. Barb Turner is slightly ahead of Izi in that category. When it comes to Effective FG %, however, Barb doesn't make the cut and Izi is only beat by Lauren Jackson. Izi was fourth (again a hair behind BT) for best individual rating which essentially subtracts negative stats like TOV's, missed FG's and FT's from the positve stats like Points, FGM, FTM, steals, rebounds, assists and blocks. She is second on the team (behind LJ again) for net +/-, and third on the team for Net per 40 and Net per game.
This is why Izi starts for Anne Donovan. Anne may not know the numbers, but she knows the game and I think Izi's value is clearer to her than to any of those doubters mentioned above. Barb and Katie have different strengths than Izi, and they will give depth to the lineup and options for the coaches to exploit in various situations, but I now feel officially silly for doubting Izi or why Anne Donovan has such confidence in her.
Besides, what would a Storm game be like without that beautiful smile there to light it up.
Seattle ama-o, Izi. Repouso bem-vindo.