Sunday, April 29, 2007

Seeing the Future

Been too busy to post of late, but it looks like my predictions continue to come true. I said in my last post that I didn't expect Paige to stick once Zara arrived to camp this coming week.

Unless she shows Coach Donovan something new, I don't imagine she sticks once Zara returns to camp.
Well, she didn't even make it that far. According to Jayda Evans, after almost being injured earlier in the week (which would have guaranteed a contract until she became healthy) Paige was cut yesterday. Unfortunately, halfway through practice Tanisha Wright went down with what Evans and Horton say is a groin injury. This has Gearlds running the offense, which is good practice for Gearlds, but doesn't help the rest of the team. Hopefully T will come back strong and Zara will get in soon to give her some healthy competition.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Camp Guard Prospects

I took a look at the bubble guards in camp to see if their recent past performances might give any hints about how camp will look. The Storm have made it clear they can only afford 11 roster spots this year due to salary cap restrictions. They are so close to the cap that they had to cut players early from camp to avoid being stuck with salary for players injured in camp. Normally Coach Donovan would go with 7 perimeter players and 5 posts. This year they will have to sacrifice one of the two. That may only leave 2 perimeter player slots available given guarantees for Bird, Lennox, Castro-Marques and Turner. If the candidates were evaluated purely on past performance here is how they would line up...

Katie Gearlds
The Storms first draft pick of 2007 hasn't played her first professional game yet, but if we look at her 2006 numbers from Purdue, she would be a lock for the roster. She stands out in every category, and earns a stunning 99.85 rating using the player rating formula (offensive only) I stole from Kevin Pelton. She was by far the best shooter with a Floor % of 48% (how often did she score when trying to score) and and an Effective Field Goal % of 52% (weighted 2 point and 3 point shooting). Her Offensive Rating was 30 points per 100 possessions better than the remaining candidates at 111.76. Her Points Produced per game (scoring and assists) came in a 17.56 giving her a 14 point edge over her nearest competitor. My defensive rating formulas also gave her high rankings, though that is more likely representative of a tough Purdue team defensive rating than an indicator of individual ability. Currently tracked defensive statistics don't allow for realistic individual defensive ratings. Purdue had a dominant defensive rating of 80.73 which made all of their players look great. Based on the glowing talk out of camp from Anne Donovan, Kevin Pelton and Alan Horton, I would say that Katie is living up to her previous performances and will be a lock to make the roster. With her height, shooting and ball handling skills, she also can play any of the three perimeter positions which will increase her stock.

Francesca Zara
Zara didn't play in the WNBA last season after being injured in EuroLeague play, so I went back to her 2005 numbers with the Storm. She took a while to warm up to WNBA play, and definitely played better as a starter than as a reserve, but was starting to get the hang of her role by the end of that season and saw her minutes rise. Offensively, Zara was the closest to Gearlds with a 40% Floor Percentage, 43% eFG, and 84.68 Offensive Rating, producing 3.14 points per game. She scored the second highest Pelton rating at 74.69. If Zara picks up where she left off she should have a spot on the roster as well. If she has lost a step and Tanisha Wright's offseason efforts bring her back to her 2005 form, Zara might not make the cut. She can play both guard positions, she handles the ball well and showed the ability to hit the outside shot when paired with Sue Bird.

Tanisha Wright
I nicknamed her Tenacious Tenisha after her gutsy, spirited play at the end of her rookie season , but she came back last year out of shape and a step slow. Her shooting was off, she had a tendancy to turn the ball over and she was tentative out on the floor. She had a 38% floor percentage, 36% eFG, 80.88 offensive rating and produced 4.22 points per game last season. Her Pelton rating was a dismal 68.12. She knows the offense, has demonstrated chemistry with the core team, and she has apparently worked on her body and her game in the offseason. She has lost weight and Pelton and Horton say that she is having a strong camp. AD singled her out in the audio file from Tuesday. She has a chance to make the roster if AD keeps 7 perimeter players or if she steps up her game enough to cover the point and the 2 spot. If she does make the team it will likely be her last year as her minimum price tag will rise after three seasons in the league.

Yolanda Paige
I haven't seen Paige play, and she was out of the league last year, so I went back to her 2005 numbers in Indiana. She did not fare well there and has the poorest offensive numbers of the guards in camp. Unless she shows Coach Donovan something new, I don't imagine she sticks once Zara returns to camp. Her overall numbers were close to Wright's, but she lacks the intangibles like experience with the offense and chemistry with the core team. If she shows a knack for hustle defense and any ability with three point shooting she will compete, but not based on her previous WNBA output.

On a side note, Jenny Boucek tells the world she is feeling better. We look forward to crushing your Monarchs on May 11th stay healthy. We want to give you huge welcoming cheers followed by a Key Arena pounding you won't soon forget. We need you to know that you won't have any more victories in Key Arena to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Storm add to Camp

I am fond of Pat Summit and the way her teams play the game, so I am all that more pleased as a third Volunteer Alum joins the Storm camp. The Storm signed Shyra Ely who has played two years with the Silver Stars but could still be had for the lower price of veterans with less than three years of experience. They also waived another player, Kerri Gardin from Virginia Tech who was originally drafted by the Chicago Sky in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft.

Horton fast on the Q&A draw

Alan Horton answers our questions on the speedy cuts...injuries and salary cap rules have Anne Donovan acting cautiously. She apparently needs every penny of wiggle room after the signings of JB, Sue and Izi.

Bodies Flying Everywhere

Most of the team is still overseas fulfilling the mandatory, money making responsibilities the players have engaged in during the off-season. It is surprising then that Coach and GM of the team, Anne Donovan, chose to cut almost everyone who showed up to camp yesterday. Andrea Bills, Alexis Kendrick, Victoria Lucas-Perry, Chameka Scott and former Husky, Cameo Hicks, are all gone. According to Alan Horton on his blog, that leaves eight players for pactice today. Hopefully we will have some hints from AD today on the reason for the quick camp cleanup.

Kevin Pelton got some answers on why Gortman, Merrill and Wright were cut two days ago. Gortman and Wright are both still recovering from injury and were not going to be able to compete and Merrill did not even show up.

There is talk on both Pelton and Horton's blogs about Katie Gearld's defense, but neither actually make a statement one way or the other which leads me to think she isn't playing well. In the Gearlds' feature on the Storm site, Coach Donovan gives credence to that line of thought,
"She's eager to learn and she knows she has a lot to learn, in particular on the defensive end."

In researching articles on Gearlds defense on the web, most of her defense has been through wreaking havoc on the other team with her offense. That would be par for the course with the Storm, but Katie will need to learn to use her length to disrupt opponent shooters on the perimeter and her size to keep them under control in the post if she wants playing time in the current lineup. Betty and Izzy have the offense down, though a solid perimeter shooter would be useful in certain situations. Katie will see more time early if she can come in and disrupt the opponents shooters. If she is shooting well and disrupting opponents scores, she will start before the end of the season.

If the dueling camp blogs are not enough to sate your Storm thirst, check out the daily audio report from the Storm site to hear first hand observations from Kevin and Alan.

I can't imagine any more cuts coming in the near future given that there is no one left to play until more invitees trickle in next week. I will keep an eye and and ear out, however.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

First Camp Cuts

According to the Seattle Times the first two training camp cuts have been made with Shaun Gortman and Debbie Merrill gone. Shaun was injured at the end of last season, tearing her ACL in a July game against the New York Liberty. This is a common injury in basketball and soccer because of the heavy amount of cutting performed by players in this sport. There has been some speculation that women are more vulnerable to ACL injuries due to the additional width of the hips. Estrogen levels during the menstrual cycle have also been linked to motion related injury of the ACL. While recovery is possible, many players fail to return to their former playing levels, which leaves a "bubble" player like Gortman at even greater risk. Her strength on the court was her defense and her length. I am not sure how much lateral movement is effected by this injury, it is not hard to imagine that any loss to Shaun's defense made her fall behind some of the new camp members. Cutting her this early seems to indicate either that she isn't where they needed her to be, or she has a better opportunity somewhere else that the Storm wanted her to have a chance to pursue. Debbie Merril was a Forward/Center out of Ohio State, whose chances of making the roster were slim to none given the current strength in the post.

The official storm blog is the new Stormtracker created by Kevin Pelton to keep us all up to date with what is happening in camp. He has also put up a page on the newcomers to camp.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ruth Riley Blog

I just stumbled on Ruth Riley's blog on I haven't been keeping up with things basketball as much lately as I have in the past, but the official player blogs tend to be things I avoid. They have a trend of being shallow and uniteresting, more of a checked off required task item than a real shared moment from the player's life.

Ruth's blog is an exception. She is taking the time to share a piece of herself in a real way, covering issues that matter to her, from Malaria in Africa to her own trade to San Antonio, to religion and politics as experienced on a recent trip to Israel.

I have never paid much attention to Ruth as a player. I felt like she has regressed from that first championship year in Detroit over the past three years and never lived up to what looked like a promising career in the WNBA. I have much more respect for her as a person, however, after reading the shared moments she has included in her blog. I see exactly the kind of role model the WNBA wants in front of kids in the Ruth of the blog. I don't have to agree with everything she writes, but I certainly will view her in a different and positive way after having read her blog. Give it a shot.

Zara Returns to Seattle

Well, not quite yet. Jayda Evans of the Times reports that the former backup point guard is scheduled to be in training camp in the middle of May. Zara was starting to blossom in her backup role as the season progressed, though her best games came in starts replacing the beak challenged Sue Bird. The Storm lost her when the Chicago Sky surprised them by picking her up in the expansion draft and then waiving her when she turned up injured from Euroleague play. She has played well in Europe and should make things interesting in camp this year. A veteran who knows the playbook and the players could help the Storm get off to a stronger start and help build her confidence. At worst, it will force other candidates to step up their game and earn a spot to overcome Coach Donovan's known preference for the cost effective veteran. On a related note, former Husky guard, Cameo Hicks, is also scheduled for training camp after no better offers arrived from teams needing guards. Now all I need to hear is that Vodo has had a change of heart and is set to return as well. The Storm could use a strong +/- player off the bench and I always liked Vodo's length and athleticism, though she never got the chance to gain the confidence in her shot I think she needed to be successful.

Preseason has begun!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ray Allen WNBA Ad

Ray Allen has recorded a new WNBA ad this season that got national playing time during the NBA All Star Weekend and a lot of local play in the Seattle market during Sonics games on FSN. I watched the Sonics/Suns game on the local Phoenix station and they played the spot as well.

It is a nice commercial in spirit. Ray talks about how great the game is (you don't know it is the WNBA at the start) and what he likes best about the games, ending with saying that the most important thing is getting to share something with his daughter is shown in a Sue Bird "road green" jersey.

My only issue is that I can't remember ever seeing Ray at a game with his daughter. I have seen him there with his wife and baby, but not with his daughter.

Still, no one outside Storm season ticket holders are going to know that, and the message is great to get out with regards to getting NBA fans to bring their daughters to the games.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Storm Pick Purdue's Katie Gearlds

The Storm get the shooter they were looking for in Purdue's Katie Gearlds, and if they DO play her at the two guard, they will finally have some length at that position with the 6'1" forward. Given that Izi, Barb and Gortman all play the three, it is likely that AD intends Katie to play behind Betty. AD has gone with a rotation which then adapts in game based on matchups and player performance which opens up playing time for whoever is playing well in the game.

Found a Gearlds slideshow on youtube. She also has her own website. Jayda Evans has a nice piece in the Times about the draftees. Sounds like Brandi Hoskins, the injured third round pick who will sit out the 2007 season is the most excited person in the draft.
Hear about the draft on the new stormcast which also introduces us to the voice of David Locke's replacement on play by play, Alan Horton. For those of us fearing the airing of Storm games this season on conservative 770 KTTH (nothing is worse than turning on the radio for a Sonics game and catching the tail end of Rush Limbaugh), the Storm have announced that KKNW 1150 AM will be the Storm's radio partner. Thank you basketball deities for that little gift.
If you haven't seen The Heart of the Game, then rent it or buy it now. More on that on another day.

Monday, April 02, 2007

DVR Blues

Yesterday I recorded and watched the LSU/Rutgers game, though I had to record the game I really wanted to see, Tennessee/UNC, because I had a Sonics game last night. Foolishly, I apparently only set up the DVR to record the pregame show plus 30 minutes, which got me midway through the first half. Suddenly it ended and I missed everything that really mattered given that Latta and Parker were both in foul trouble by that time.

I got what I wanted with a Tennessee victory, but I missed the whole thing and then got to watch the Sonics fail at a comeback against the Nuggets.

Then today I didn't even remember to record the NCAA boys game, with Ohio State vs. Florida.

I WILL NOT forget the championship game tomorrow and I will watch the WNBA draft live on Wednesday. Catch Kevin Pelton's mock draft over at the Storm site. He seems to be thinking that a Lindsey Harding, Candice Dupree and Candance Parker trio in 2008 might be a nice coup for the Sky who are likely to struggle again this year and have a chance at next year's likely top pick. I am not so sure that Dan Hughes will pick Latta over Harding, but I have only seen Harding play once, and that isn't a great sample given the half dozen Latta games I have seen. I have just seen more weaknesses since I have had more time to watch her.

He's already reordered his draft from earlier today (he had Arminte Price going at the six) but he still has the Storm picking Noelle Quinn. I haven't seen her play, but her shooting numbers look solid AND consistent. She has played and scored well all four years, not true for every player out there. I think with Betty a lock to start at the two, it would be most critical to find a pure shooter for a reserve. Betty can play point, but she needs a shooter when she does since she is a slasher. This was a problem last year when they tried to pair Tanisha and Betty, especially since neither Turner or Castro-Marques are pure shooters. With strong slashers and posts available, a pure shooter would open things up when Sue is sitting out. Tully could hit the three from the point, but Sue could also play the 2 while Tully was at the point. The Storm have had less options in the past two years. With LJ's minutes likely to be curbed again this season, a shooter is paramount. We will know in two days.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Catch NCAA Final Four Today

I had trouble watching the boys play yesterday, but Ohio State and Florida have advanced.

The Tennessee Lady Vols face the team that knocked them out of last year's tournament, The UNC Tar Heels. We will see how the Vols handle UNC's trap, will they have the tall Candace Parker bring the ball up the floor so she can see and pass over the trap to open players under the basket like she did against Marist? I hope to see more of the passionate defense I saw from the Vols in that last game appear tonight. The game is on ESPN at 6 PM PDT. It follows the 4 PM PDT airing of the LSU/Rutgers game also on ESPN. The championship game is Tuesday evening and the WNBA draft is on Wednesday.