Saturday, May 29, 2010

Game 5 vs. Sky

Top Performers

NameFloor %eFG %TS %Points+/-
Svetlana Abrosimova70%60%65%13-4
Alison Lacey70%0%100%2+7
Ashley Robinson68%50%41%2-15
Le'Coe Willingham61%58%67%8-4
Camille Little55%50%48%10-5

NameFloor %eFG %TS %Points+/-
Sylvia Fowles81%67%106%19
Catherine Kraayeveld66%71%69%14
Epiphany Prince65%83%108%13

Top Lineups

Lacey-Abrosimova-Willingham-Bishop-Vesela: +8
Wright-Abrosimova-Cash-Willingham-Bishop: +3

Chicago continues to pose serious match-up problems for Seattle. In this game though it was a combination of severe defensive lapses combined with a dearth of quality shooting. The defense has not been very strong so far this season, but in this game they gave up both the perimeter jumper on the week side and penetration into the lane. With both Bird and Wright missing even open shots, they had a tough go against a team with very strong post defense. San Antonio is the next test and then they have to face the undefeated Atlanta Dream. That will be a scary team. If they can't stop penetration and rebound effectively the Dream will slice them apart.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2010 Game 4 vs. Mystics

Top Performers

NameFloor %eFG %TS %Points+/-
Camille Little65%64%63%11+6
Sue Bird58%71%114%16+12
Tanisha Wright54%60%63%16-5
Le'Coe Willingham53%60%108%8+1
Swin Cash46%50%70%14+9

NameFloor %eFG %TS %Points+/-
Marissa Coleman73%133%103%8
Monique Currie60%71%76%24
Crystal Langhorne52%56%74%14

Top Lineups

Bird-Abrosimova-Cash-Willingham-Jackson: +11
Bird-Wright-Cash-Little-Jackson: +6

First of all, let me just say that I REALLY like what Coach Julie Plank is doing with Washington. She is really using her roster well and the style of play that she in implementing with them should be very effective and help them be very successful this season. This is a much improved team with her at the helm and I expect them to keep getting better.

It was a hard game to watch. I guess we are being told to get used to this. The Storm seem to go through the motions staying close to teams and then locking them down in the fourth quarter. Four close wins are still W's in the win/loss column, but they are putting themselves at risk when facing teams better prepared and more experienced than those played up to this point.

I got to share the game with a first timer, my friend's six year old daughter came with us, attending her first professional sporting event ever. She really seemed to have a blast (though she was exhausted by the end and slept the whole way home) cheering, chanting defense and hitting her thunder sticks together.

The fourth quarter was VERY exciting, though I was quite distressed to have a close game with Katie Smith on the floor for the opposing team. She may be a half step slower than two years ago, but she is a clear leader on the floor and capable of turning the clock back at any moment and nailing critical shots or getting key steals and rebounds. The Storm survived though, because of spectacular bench play from Abrosimova and Willingham. That left the starters fresh and both Camille and Tanisha had fresh legs under them when they hit some big threes in the second half because of the rest the bench earned for them.

4-0 folks. Only two teams remain undefeated. That is a lot of responsibility to bear. Let's hope the Storm can hold on to that weight and grow that first number.

Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 Game 3 @ Mercury

Top Performers

NameFloor %eFG %TS %Points+/-
Le'Coe Willingham65%75%100%140
Svetlana Abrosimova60%50%44%7+1
Lauren Jackson56%44%52%25+9
Camille Little55%50%47%14+1
Swin Cash49%42%69%18+1

NameFloor %eFG %TS %Points+/-
Dewanna Bonner64%63%100%240
Penny Taylor55%56%60%14+1
Temeka Johnson42%59%68%15-1

Top Lineups

Bird-Wright-Cash-Little-Jackson: +8
Bird-Wright-Abrosimova-Little-Jackson: +7
Bird-Wright-Cash-Willingham-Jackson: +4
Bird-Abros.-Cash-Will.-LJ: +3

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 Game 2 vs. Lynx

Top Performers

NameFloor %eFG %TS %Points+/-
Camille Little66%54%72%18-1
Swin Cash57%68%109%24+3
Tanisha Wright55%100%101%9+10
Sue Bird52%38%50%8+3
Lauren Jackson48%53%56%18+6

NameFloor %eFG %TS %Points+/-
Rashanda McCants56%50%63%10+3
Monica Wright49%53%56%190
Nikki Anosike60%56%52%13-1

Top Lineups

Bird-Wright-Cash-Willingham-Jackson: +9
Bird-Wright-Cash-Little-Jackson: +3

This game was a bit of an odd one.

I was late to the game despite my Tee Ball game being cancelled by the weather. It was a late game on a school night with testing in the morning, so I decided to go to the game without the boys and had to wait for my wife to get home and relieve me of parenting duty for the evening.

I arrived midway through the first quarter and the score was tied with the bench on the floor with Bird, Cash and Jackson. The Lynx made a huge push as soon as I sat down, with McCants, Houston, Whalen knocking down shots putting the Storm down 7 by the end of the quarter.

Coach Agler started the second quarter with Wright handling the ball , within a minute, though, both Bird and Lacey were on the floor with Alison at the small forward slot. The bench saw som action with at least one bench player on the floor from the 2 minute mark of the 1st quarter until the end of the half. After the initial defensive melt down with the introduction of the bench leading to a -7 hole, the bench held Minnesota to a draw for the first five minutes or so. At the end of the quarter the starters with Willingham in for Camille made a push and went on a +5 run.

The first half, outside of the push at the very end, looked very stagnant. The Storm weren't playing horribly but they weren't playing well. They would get a stop but blow the scoring opportunity at the other end leaving them unable to make up any ground.

The second half did not get much better. Agler had the starters play all but 2:27 of the 3rd quarter, but things looked pretty much the same with defensive mis-steps at one end and sloppy execution on offense at the other end preventing them from gaining any real ground against the Lynx.

In the fourth quarter, however, Agler went with a UCONN lineup in the backcourt with Bird, Abrosimova and Cash on the floor with Willingham and Robinson. Swin started to find a groove and when Lauren Jackson and Tanisha Wright returned to the lineup things started to click. With just under five minutes remaining Little joined the rest of the starters and the experienced team closed out the game with focused defense on the perimeter and aggressive offense attacks. Cash was brilliant in the quarter with key efforts leading to choice baskets by Little and Jackson to seal the deal. Camille hit a three to give the Storm a lead and Jackson used an offensive rebound and putback to lock it up.

It is easy to see how the bench is struggling defensively and the offense just has not found its groove. However, if Swin Cash continues to play with this kind of aggression the offense should open up much more quickly. Willingham got some good looks at the basket (as did Lacey) which should start going in as she gets more floor time. Defensively she looked much better than she did in the first game of the season. We will see how fired up she gets taking on Phoenix this weekend.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


How can you NOT love a WNBA fan?

We have the league's unofficial "superfan," a male school teacher who traveled to every WNBA city for a game last season all to honor a dear friend and WNBA fan who had lost her fight with cancer.

We have Stormfans who earn 50% the leagues GM's vote for creating the most hostile atmosphere for opposing WNBA teams. This is something we really need to think about. Let's do the math, people. 6 GM's picked Seattle, 3 picked Connecticut and 3 picked unique teams not from either Seattle or Connecticut.

Here is my interpretation of those results. 3 GM's picked a particular rival city that hates their team. Chuck them. 3 eastern conference teams picked Connecticut, a small arena with a very passionate local women's basketball fan base fed by PASSIONATE fans in the locality of the most dominant NCAA Women's Basketball team in the history of the sport. If you didn't know, that team had UCONN great (Sayles) and now has three UCONN greats in Asjha Jones, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles. Three of their current starters came out of their local program. Then we have Seattle. We have a Division 1 Husky team that has made the first round of the NCAA tournament once that I recall and has ZERO current alumnus on WNBA rosters. We have a defunct ABL team named the Seattle Reign, a team that only broke .500 in the final season of the league's existence when they folded after 15 games.

OK, I am biased...Seattle clearly has the best fans in the league...blah, blah, blah.

Back to my point. I simply got jazzed by the following quote from a USA Today article...

"Everyone deserves a second chance," said Phyllis Young, a longtime Shock fan who traveled to the game from Flint, Mich. "So you've got to support that."
The ownership of the Detroit Shock bailed. Unlike the Houston Comets, the Sacramento Monarchs, the Miami Sol, the Cleveland Rockers, and the Portland Fire, the Shock found a new home in Tulsa. This fan defies logic and travels all the way from Detroit, a city absolutely DECIMATED by the collapse of the US auto industry and the weakness of the US economy, to Tulsa to watch a team which only has two truly familiar faces on the roster. Kara Braxton and Plennette Pierson are the only faces of the franchise still on the Shock roster after the relocation. Pierson was a traded player who became an invaluable 6th woman while Braxton is the talented but frustrating player who moved into a starting role after the trade of Ruth Riley to San Antonio. Two of last year's rookies, Shavonte Zellous and Alexis Hornbuckle are nice players, but barely had a chance to woo over Detroit fans. Still, Young makes the trip to see HER team play.

That is the essence of a WNBA fan to me. Not every Shock fan makes that trip, but for any team in this league you WILL find fans who will make that trip.

Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 Game 1

Top Performers

Tanisha Wright- FL%: 63%, eFG%: 45%, TS%: 55%, +24
Lauren Jackson- FL%: 55%, eFG%: 41%, TS%: 72%, +22

Ticha Penicheiro- FL%: 72%, eFG%: 50%, TS%: 35%, -6

Top Lineups

Bird-Wright-Cash-Little-Jackson: +21
Bird-Wright-Cash-Jackson-Robinson: +8

Opening Night

Wow. That was fun. I almost forgot how much fun it is to just be a fan of this team. Last year, even when I was in the stands while someone else officially covered the game I was much more reserved...probably from my poor attempts at being objective from media row.

Seattle returned all 5 starters...who we ALL recall played every minute of last season. OK, they didn't play every minute, but they did score every point. So I am guilty of a little exaggeration. Who cares?

The bench on opening night put up 4 points (A-Rob on an uncontested put-back layup and Svetlana Abrosimova on a second chance mid-range jumper) in about 26 minutes of game time. With 200 minutes of play available, the starters managed to only have to play 87% of the available minutes to start the season.

To be fair, Agler went to his bench early showing us his core for the season with Willingham, Abrosimova and Lacey being called on (no surprises) as well as Ashley Robinson. Many observers would have A-Rob as the 11th player on this wait, most would have had the young woman cut. Some have insulted the entire league and women athletes in general with blatant accusations equating to libel saying she has not earned her roster spot with her play on the basketball court.

Robinson is a professional. Her coach put her in the game, she did what she has always done. She played solid defense (guarding Candace Parker, perhaps the league's most dynamic post), making the proper rotations within the coach's defensive screens and taking shots in the offense that needed to be taken. Granted, as often happens, she only made one out of those three shots. The one she made should have been taken three seconds earlier. Wake up idiots. She isn't in the game to score baskets. She isn't in the game because of how she looks (sweet as it may be.) She is in the game to use her length, speed and height to disrupt her assignment and make the RIGHT rotation to help her team by stopping someone else from getting a basket while her assignment is well guarded. (See Le'Coe Willingham for an example of someone who only got the first half of that job right people.)

I am a self confessed Vin Baker apologist. I am NOT an Ashley Robinson apologist. I look at the roster Coach Agler has put together and I get it. It makes PERFECT sense to me. It wasn't the one I put together, but...

  1. I don't get to watch any practice...
  2. I am not as smart about basketball as he is...
  3. It isn't my dang job!!!

I look at what he did, and I can see WHY he did it. I also can see why my lineup was probably not quite as good as his.

Anyone who loves this game has to think about one thing and one thing only. Lauren Jackson wants to win. This may be the singular most powerful thing I have ever learned about this young woman. I am not an insider. The few quality questions I have asked her have been answered tersely and without a personal connection. Actually she was much more real when I asked her a really BAD question. That actually informed me of what kind of person Lauren Jackson is. I am not a reporter...I am just a fan with some meager skills with language who had a chance to talk to a person who embodies the essence of the only sport he loves. I waited until the REAL reporters were done and then I asked my questions. I blew it. I asked some stupid question...I can't even remember what it was. She didn't rub in my inadequacy...she merely said "It's alright, mate." Then she created an answer to a better question than I had asked which I could quote in my game article for the night.

She did the same thing with A-Rob tonight. Ashley forcefully grabbed that offensive rebound. Then for what seemed like an eternity, she looked around for who she should pass it to. The whole time, LJ was boxing out what seemed to be the entire LA team while screaming, "Shoot the ball!" or at least she was screaming something. The crowd was far too loud to hear anything she was saying. Robinson shot the ball and made the basket. Lauren did not chastise her for waiting, and she didn't pretend that everything was OK. She just laughed...WITH A-Rob.

I could write pages on those 10 seconds alone. If I can sum it up...A-Rob is our woman and LJ, well, she is so much more than her height, her looks and her turn around, fade-away jumper. Those two women are Seattle Storm Basketball, and if you don't get haven't been there.

By the way, there was a basketball game being played, did I mention that?

Yes, the highly touted (even here years before she wore the purple and vomit) Candace Parker shot 4-11 from the field. It wasn't as big a deal as the media will make it out to be. LJ played some spectacular defense on Parker...particularly when Parker tried to score on the move. She had some truly quality help from Wright, Cash, Little, Robinson and even Willingham. Le'Coe can defend one on one...(surprise Phoenix!) but she still has to internalize Agler's defense.

Really, his defense is not that complicated...if you have to coach it. Playing it, well that is another matter entirely. He gave his elementary version to the Boy's and Girl's Club of King County this year. I don't claim to understand it all, but the overview he gave answered a TON of questions I had after two years of watching his teams play here in Seattle. There are many nuances I don't get yet, (see pick and roll 101) but I see his ultimate vision. From there I can deconstruct much of what I see on the court (maybe low 60 percentile.) Willingham is still a step and a half slow at her reactions. She wants to hedge on the handler when she should be showing on the handler but hedging on her own assignment. Actually, this is where it probably gets too complicated. She likely has a primary hedge but has to adjust by how well the OTHER defender covers her assignment. OK, now I am getting confused...anyway...let us just say that I think Le'Coe is a dang sharp woman and she will have this down in a week or two. The lady just got to camp...give the "girl" a break.

So, my first time feeling truly free from the restrictions of an editor and I am just running off free form with tangential bruhaha.

In the end, the Storm won because they played starter minutes against a solid team on the second night of a back to back. LA is struggling (IMHO) to find the proper chemistry, and the Storm were able to exploit that by coming out aggressive and maintaining that aggression through the end of the game. LA did not fold until the 4th quarter. Seattle kept it close and played their bench more heavily in the 1st half. That left steam in the starting lineup to look for the weak point and go for the win.

I never doubt this team on the quality of their starters nor the quality of their coaching. I look forward to how the next few games play out. If this game was part of a complicated chess match to win one against LA, it was perfect. In the long run, though, we will need to see more offense from the bench and less minutes from the starters. A team that has fallen from the post season in the first round for 4 consecutive years CANNOT afford a 87% dependency on the starters for minutes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Opening Weekend

I got to see 2 games yesterday.

LA @ Phoenix

Phoenix looks odd without Cappie. Diana is still Diana, and with Penny Taylor they will always be a threat (her hair is auburn this season), but I don't see anyone on the roster who can create their own shot in the half court the way Pondexter could with that wicked crossover. Dupree is a nice addition and I still love Bonner, but at this point in the season Phoenix is not as good a team as they were last season.

LA was really strange to watch. Candace Parker looks in good form, playing overseas has her ready for the start of this season. Will it impact her health this year though? They have the point guard situation locked up. With Ticha Penicheiro, Andrea Riley and Kristi Toliver in place, they have distributors and scorers that they can mix and match at will. Tina Thompson looks like she is 30 not 35 and D-Nasty will always be in the mix. They were not playing as a team yesterday, but if they start to gel over the course of the season, the league better watch out.

Andrea Riley was simply hot yesterday. I loved the way she played with no fear. Gillom decided to just let Ticha rest her sore ankle after Riley went in the game and took it over. She attacked the basket, found open players...she looked like a real pro and not a high volume, rookie shooter.

Minnesota @ Tulsa

Minnesota was without the services of two of its best players. Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins are both still out with injury. In their absence, however, rookie Monica Wright proved she is going to be a really solid pro. She did everything she did in college in her first game as a pro. I was very impressed. Whalen was unremarkable...but Minnesota could be a really strong team under new coach Reeve's tutelage. Nicky Anosike is everything that Reeve wanted Kara Braxton to be in Detroit and Charde Houston offers some nice flexibility. It will be interesting to see how they look when they get their superstars back. Wright deserves a heavy role on this team...what will it be?

Tulsa will not be as bad as many have predicted, and their games should be a lot of fun to watch...40 minutes of hell to play, perhaps, but they will be fun to watch. Braxton and Pierson are the team's leaders and they showed it yesterday. With no Ford, Nolan or Smith, they will have to show it every night, something that has never been required of them. Shanna Crossley and Chante Black are going to be much better players in Nolan Richardson's system than most of us predicted. I really liked what they did in their home opener. The real surprise for me, though was the play of rookie Natasha Lacy. After being cut from camps the past two years, Lacy is thriving in Nolan's system. She was everywhere in this game. She could be the breakout player of the year. There will be better rookies, no doubt, but she is the one who is going to surprise us with how well she plays. Marion Jones was a non factor. Of the two games, this is the one I actually enjoyed the most. I have a defensive leaning in my philosophy of the game, and these two teams were both very aggressive defensively. I loved watching the players get after the ball. There is just something exciting about a well executed trap.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Not too bad...

Of my top 20 seniors this year, 9 of them made WNBA opening day rosters...

Kelsey Griffin
Tina Charles
Jayne Appel
Alison Lacey
Gabriela Marginea
Kalana Greene
Amanda Thompson
Monica Wright
Taylor Lilly

Some other top players by position...
Ashley Houts
Andrea Riley

Allison Hightower
Brittainey Raven

Jacinta Monroe

Surprise cuts for me:
Alysha Clark
Jenna Smith

Those are two players I think can play in this league if with the right system.

On Storm news...both Aja Parham and Ashley Walker are WNBA caliber players off the bench. In a 13 player roster they are both in this league and on this team, but they were cut today in favor of the height of Vesela, Bishop and Robinson.

OPENING DAY IS JUST 48 HOURS AWAY!!!!! Be there and be ready for The Brick Project!

Quiet will be mandatory for opposing free throws until the shooter finishes their shooting motion. We will force a league low FT% this season. You WILL be a factor.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Ashleys

Jayda mentions it in her piece while I was off at camp on Orcas Island with my son's elementary school...

Storm fans are robbed though if they don't get to see the video posted by Fox.

Ashley Walker and Ashley Robinson showed incredibly impressive, comic timing at Storm Media Day this week. They finish each other's sentences and do a brilliant back and forth that is truly entertaining. Those two ladies have some duo talent beyond what we get to see on the hardwood. They had the media in stitches and I simply could NOT stop smiling as they talked.

I haven't had the chance to sit through the audio yet...I had to go from Media Day to the technology free retreat, but I am not sure that internet or print media can do justice to The Ashleys. I am not a big reality TV fan, but I think I would have to set my DVR to The Ashleys.

On a side note, the fan lawsuit against Clay Bennett and the Seattle Sonics that I participated in has finally ended. My lawyer contacted me this week to let me know that settlement checks are being issued after the judge approved our settlement.

It was never about the money for me. I participated in the suit because I love the sport of basketball, I love the city of Seattle and I was personally disgusted by the callous way the Seattle fans of the NBA were treated by both Clay Bennett and David Stern. The business man in me comprehends their motivations, but the fan in me feels that they have dishonored the purity of the sport itself. Basketball is a sport and as such is so much more than the NBA. I feel lucky that the WNBA still embodies much of what the spirit of the sport inspires.

Anyone who was a true fan of the Sonics and watched the 1st round playoff match-up between OKC and LAL has to respect the passion and devotion those fans displayed for their team. I have always believed that Oklahoma City deserved a basketball team, and they proved their passion as fans this season. They did their team right and in my heart, I know they did Seattle proud as well. We could not have done a better job supporting that team than they did this year.

That said, I still feel that the league and the two ownership groups were irresponsible stewards of what should be a "public trust." As slimy a businessman as Bennett may have been in this endeavor, it was the poor choices of Howard Schultz and David Stern that represent the true villains in this story.

We are so lucky to have Force 10 and Karen Bryant here to represent what sport and community CAN be for this city. They are the role models we should embrace and share with our children. In my new endeavor as a youth coach, I have seen first hand what impacts sport can have on a child's development. My appreciation for the game and its values has only grown.

I decided before our lawsuit really took off that I would use any proceeds I earned from the suit to support Seattle basketball. I didn't qualify for much in the final settlement, but what I have will be spread across the Ballard Boys & Girls Club basketball program and youth basketball programs tied to the Seattle Storm. My ticket rep has been patiently waiting for me to tell him the settlement is in, so I get to give him the good news this week.