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
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%.
|Player||Floor %||Eff FG%|
|Iziane Castro Marques||47%||51%|
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.
|Player||Offensive Rating||Individual Rating||Efficiency Rating|
|Iziane Castro Marques||109.20||96.69||12.00|
Plus/MinusNo 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.
|Player||Net||Net40||Net per Game|
|Iziane Castro Marques||+281||+11.67||+8.26|
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.
Top 10 Most Used Lineups
Most Effective Player Pairs