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Women's Hoops Blog

Jayda Evans covers college and pro women's basketball. While its her first year on the Washington beat, she has covered the Storm since its inception. She'll offer observations, critiques, occasional off-beat tales and answers to select e-mail inquires. Evans also has written a book on the Storm and women's hoops, called "Game On!"

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June 30, 2008 10:21 AM

Off Day

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Storm is off today, returning to the practice court on Tuesday to prepare for the week's games against New York and Minnesota. Most of the players expressed relief to be at home for a stretch of three games total to focus on themselves at practice and just relax without the rapid paced schedule they've had to open the season.

Storm F Swin Cash was funny after the win against Washington on Sunday.

"I finally made a layup," she said. The basic move has troubled her in the team's past five games. Cash was 3-for-7 from the field against the Mystics for 10 points. Teammate Sheryl Swoopes was really impressive in finishing 5-of-10 from the field for 11 points. She also had four rebounds, five assists, and two blocked shots.

Someone said in Los Angeles that if this was 2005, the Storm lineup would be fearful. Cash and Swoopes still need to show consistency, but their play against Washington is along the line of 2005 -- at least it is for Swoopes.

The team had a visitor in the locker room in former center Florina Pascalau. She said she's returning to Romania this morning to hopefully play with the national team. No sight of rookie Kimberly Beck, though. She was a cool addition to the locker room and will be missed by her teammates. In fact, G Sue Bird spoke about Beck, who was cut on Saturday, during pregame.

"Kim was a really cool person both on and off the court," Bird said. "She was bummed, definitely upset. At this point in the year, you kind of think 'All right, I'm on the team.' She was sad and what not, but she has plans to play overseas, which will be very good for her."

I'll have an update on Beck later this week.

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June 29, 2008 5:52 PM

Mystics game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

ANOTHER RECORD: The Storm set a season-record for opponent scoring, holding the Mystics to 49 points on 33.9 percent shooting. Beard, normally an electric scorer, was 6 of 17 from the field for 16 points and four rebounds. Bird was Seattle's high-scorer with 14 while the bench was good, again, with Wright, A-Rob, and Shyra Ely making plays. Storm wins 64-49 and improves to 8-1 at KeyArena.

FOR THREE: LJ missed all four of her attempts against LA and has only hit five in her past five games, but Jackson hist another one with 2.3 remaining in the third to give Seattle a 47-34 lead headed into the fourth. This is going to be a brutal score, but that's what happens when you play solid defense. Seattle is holding Washington to 36.6 percent shooting, although the Mystics did shoot 50 percent in the third.

FOR THREE: A three-pointer by Swoopes put the team up 42-32 after a scary little rally by the Mystics. Seattle just forced Washington into a shot-clock violation, too, which is keeping the Mystics rattled. There's 6:02 remaining in the third.

A LITTLE DRIVE: Little made her first basket as a Storm, a clean baseline drive to the hoop with 3:54 remaining. The score is 33-22, but Little did pick up another foul. Storm offense is back up to 52 percent.

FIRST BUCKET: Jackson hit her first FG, a put back on a rebound with 4:58 remaining in the half. But the Australian is getting some offensive help tonight from Bird, Swoopes, and Cash, who are a combined 10-of-15 from the field. Seattle leads 31-17 with 4:20 left in the quarter.

SINGLE FOCUS: When asked what Rollins saw on the Storm's roster, Rollins' sole answer was Jackson, perhaps remembering her 47-point night in Washington. He said his team would double-team the reigning MVP and he wasn't kidding. Jackson just scored her first points of the game at the 6:59 mark off two free throws, missing her three FG attempts as she was swarmed by Mystics defenders. Add a bucket by Swoopes and the Storm is back up 25-15 in the second quarter.

SMACK THAT: LJ had a monster block on F Kendra Wecker that got the crowd roused. The Storm is playing entertaining defense with Swoopes just picking up a steal. They have dropped offensively (40 percent), though, and Beard just sank a three-pointer at the buzzer signaling the end of the opening quarter, which inched the Mystics within 17-12.

LITTLE DEBUT: Newcomer Camille Little made her debut at the 4:52 mark of the first quarter and promptly was scored on by a driving layin by Mystics G Nikki Blue. Washington started off cold, but has picked up its play to pull within 14-9. Bird started strong for the Storm, making three of her opening four baskets. Seattle is shooting 50 percent from the field.

LOTS OF PRIDE: Storm co-owner Anne Levinson served as Grand Marshall with Governor Christine Gregoire of today's Pride parade through downtown Seattle. It was about 90 degrees in the city and Storm CEO Karen Bryant said Levinson was well received with lots of "hooting and hollering." Both are out lesbians along with forward Sheryl Swoopes, who came out in 2005. Swoopes said she'd do it again because she needed to get it off her chest. But she said she hasn't read any message boards or letters regarding her decision and never expected more players to announce their sexuality because of her. "When I made the decision, I didn't think it would be as crazy as it was. That it would blow up like it did," said Swoopes, who won the league's MVP title that season. "If I had to do it all again, I don't know if I would care to do all of the interviews. There were some great things that came from it, but for me it was no big deal. If me doing it all over again is going to help somebody that might be dealing or struggling with their sexuality, then absolutely I'd do it. But if it's not going to help anybody, no. And my advice then and now is to feel comfortable with who you are and live your life. If you want to be in the closet the rest of your life, that's your choice. If that means you want to come out, that's your choice, too. Ultimately, you are the one that's going to have to deal with every issue that comes with coming out or not."

WELCOME BACK: Former Storm assistant Jessie Kenlaw made trips back to KeyArena with Houston last season and returned again as part of the Mystics staff. She said life is good in D.C., but taking some adjusting from life in the south. Kenlaw lives downtown and doesn't have far to commute since all of the front-office staff is now located in the Verizon Center.

Trade pick-up Camille Little could see action tonight for the Storm while reserve G Tanisha Wright will see more time at the PG position since the Storm cut rookie Kimberly Beck before contracts became guaranteed on Saturday. Starting PG Sue Bird said she'd have to "suck it up" for one game and play extended minutes, but feels she's "in the best shape" she's been ina long time and isn't bothered by her career-high average 35.2 minutes.

"Brian and I have talked a lot about what's best for me in terms of my subs and he does a good job of seeing when I need a quick blow," Bird said.

Many onlookers are concerned because of the upcoming Olympics, where Bird is expected to be the starting PG. But because the games are centralized with no travel and the team is deep, Bird anticipates playing less while in China. Agler believes the same.

Guard play will be key against Washington as the Mystics feature a tough perimeter in Nikki Blue, Alana Beard, and Monique Currie. Coach Tree Rollins credited Blue's play to helping the team winning four of its past five games, especially a statement win against Los Angeles on Thursday.


"Our defense is starting to pick up and we finally got a steady rotation at point guard," Rollins said. "At the beginning of the year, we were changing the starting point guard every two games. We're just getting comfortable with each other."

Incidentally, Agler is now leaning toward picking up another perimeter player to help the Storm in the backcourt. Teams can sign players to 7-day contracts beginning July 1. Former Washington star Kristen O'Neill, who has been serving as a practice player since being cut during training camp, is in the mix to be added to the team.

Well, here are tonight's starters:

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Yolanda Griffith
G Sheryl Swoopes
G Sue Bird

MYSTICS
F Monique Currie
F Taj McWilliams-Franklin
C Crystal Langhorne
G Alana Beard
G Nikki Blue

Tonight's officials are Penny Davis, James Breeding, and Eric Brewton.

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June 28, 2008 12:41 PM

Storm cuts Beck

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Storm cut rookie G Kimberly Beck today, giving the Storm room under the cap for further additions and making room on the active roster to play trade pick-up Camille Little. The rise of G Tanisha Wright's play also made Beck expendable because coach Brian Agler, who's also director of player personnel, can have either Wright or PG Sue Bird run the offense or play SG.

The team is preparing for the departure of F Lauren Jackson, who'll miss five games in July to prepare for the Olympics with her Australian national team. Agler said he may want to pick up another post to fill the void, signing players to seven-day contracts. That option begins July 1. If Agler kept Beck on the roster, her rookie salary would have become guaranteed, not giving the Storm room under the cap for additions.

Beck averaged 3.5 minutes with Seattle, having her best outing in the team's loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday when she started the fourth quarter and nailed her only three-point attempt. She also had two rebounds and one assist in helping the Storm chop a 14-point deficit to nine at the 5:38 mark.

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June 26, 2008 8:13 AM

TV Alert

Posted by Jayda Evans

The WNBA is rolling out "Phase II" of the Expect Great campaign commercials tonight during the Indiana-New York game on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. PST. Word is the marketing division had a roundtable discussing the reaction to "Phase I," which was overwhelmingly negative, even from the male demographic that the spots were targeted to attract. (Those commercials featured Candace Parker, Tamika Catchings, and Cheryl Ford) Marketing talked about ways the ads could be changed to achieve their goals -- attract new fans and still appeal to the diehards. The NBA closing its season also helped because the new ads now will only air during WNBA games, so the women's league doesn't have to make that desperate reach to lure non-responsive male fans during playoff games.

Well, the tweaks featuring Storm G Sue Bird and Phoenix G Diana Taurasi are in a word, sweet. And not surgary, look-at-us-aren't-we-cute-girls-who-play-basketball sweet. I'm talking grown-up, watch-me-school-you-in-my-sexy-woman-way sweet. And Bird's smile at the end of her's? Love it! But check them out for yourself here and here.

Bird's is kind of humorous from a media standpoint, though, because all the woman has been talking about the past two weeks is, "we need to get a win." Yeah, she likes to win, but her team has only achieved that feat once in the Storm's past five games. At least Taurasi's is true to form with her averaging a league-leading 25.4 points. Still, could the defending champs improve on its 5-7 record?

I digress. If you remember, the spots were filmed on the Storm's practice court prior to the Storm's June 11 win against Phoenix. F Lauren Jackson and Mercury G Cappie Pondexter also shot ads and I'm told theirs are still in post-production. There will also be two more phases featuring all seven players currently with ads and maybe more players will be picked up in the future.

Mark me down as happy to wait to see what's unveiled. I'm just glad the WNBA finally appears to be on the right track when it comes to its marketing pitch.

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June 25, 2008 11:26 AM

Happy Birthday Jordan, Basketball

Posted by Jayda Evans

Major computer and technical difficulties prevented me from posting and the time away was a killer. Candace Parker dunked twice, Houston erased San Antonio's perfect home record, and other members of America's 2000 Olympic team popped-off about what really happened between Australian star Lauren Jackson and U.S. center Lisa Leslie. The short version? It didn't happen the way Leslie described in her book, but we'll revisit that later.

Luckily I'm connected in time to wish F Sheryl Swoopes' son Jordan and the Basketball a Happy Birthday. What? You didn't know that June 25, 1929 was the date G.L. Pierce recieved the patent for the actual "basketball" used in the game?

"That's something only you would know, Jayda," Swoopes responded lovingly (I hope) when I told her of the link between Jordan and basketball. Well, now y'all know, too.

Apparently Jordan has been walking the streets of Seattle inviting everyone to his birthday party since majority of his friends are in Houston. When he was born in 1997, former Comets public relations manager Tom Savage, who currently holds the same position for the Sonics, said it was a media frenzy because Swoopes was the first WNBA player to give birth and return to play the same season.

"The longest day of my life," he quipped before Swoopes retorted, "You? I was the one in labor!"

Well, since Swoopes is taking care of Jordan today and I'm sure few will raise a glass to Pierce's handy work, I'd thought I'd ask a few players to tell me about their first basketball in its honor. Here's what they had to say. Please note that the blog will be a little irregular until I get the new glitches fixed.

Enjoy!

"Mine was a black ball with pink [accents] and then it had Michael Jordan written in red on it," Los Angeles F Candace Parker said. "I have a picture of me with a backwards pink hat and a pink outfit holding the ball. It was a pink Mini Mouse outfit -- no, I'm not lying. My Mom still has the picture of it. She carries it in her wallet because she thinks it's the funniest thing. I'm like intent; I have my tongue out and everything. I was maybe two and whatever my brothers were into, I was into. When they stopped wanting to play with that ball, I wanted it and kept it until they gave something else up."

"My first basketball, I used to sleep with it and everything," Phoenix G Kelly Miller said. "Ever since I was little. My parents gave it to me as a Christmas present. My brother always played basketball, so we [her twin Coco] would always watch him and idolize him so our parents started us young with basketball, too. I think it took a couple of years to be OK without it."

"I wasn't ever given a basketball," Phoenix G Cappie Pondexter said. "I remember taking a couple on the playground. They were just sitting there. I would go to tournaments with my brother and people would leave a basketball once the tournament was over and I would just take it. I was probably 10 or 11-years-old. But I wasn't a thief. Somebody would always end up taking it back from me because I would forget and leave it. When I had one, though, I would just play around because my Mom wouldn't let me go outside the block. I'd just dribble up and down the block."

"I had a rubber outdoor ball that said 'Lauren Jackson,'" Storm F Lauren Jackson said. "I was about three and I took it everywhere, especially on trips when my Mum was playing basketball. I loved that basketball. I think I played with it until it deflated."

"I had to keep close watch over my first basketball or somebody would take it," Detroit G Deanna Nolan said. "And you had to have your own because you never knew what you would find at the playground. It was an old brown leather ball and I carried it in my backpack. But I didn't sleep with it or anything like that."

"Jordan's first basketball was probably a mini WNBA or Houston Comets ball," Swoopes said of her son, who currently always has a green and gold Storm ball with him and reguarly wears a full-on Kobe Lakers' jersey. "When he came out, I had a [bassinet] and it had balls everywhere. My first ball I know wasn't a brand new one. It was a used, worn out ball that was regulation size. Initially, it was something that every time I walked out of the house, I had a ball in my bag. Even when I got to the point to where I had my first car, I had a ball in the back because you never know when you're going to have a pickup game or an outdoor court and can just stop and go and shoot and do my own thing. Early on in my life and career, I was definitely a gym rat. I loved the gym and always had a ball with me and no body had to be with me. I was going to go in and I could be there all day long. But, that was the only place my Mom really let me go without her being right there with me. That might be a reason why I fell in love with basketball, cause that was my out -- my only way to get out of the house."

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June 22, 2008 9:59 PM

Storm practice: Cuts, trades made

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm coach Brian Agler, who's also the team's director of personnel, cut Romanian C Florina Pascalau in order to make room under the salary cap to trade his second-round pick in the 2009 draft for Camille Little. He coached Little as an assistant in San Antonio last season and the former North Carolina star averaged 2.0 points in 49 total minutes during the four-game regular season sweep against Seattle last summer.

Little, a 6 foot 2 F, averaged 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12 games with Atlanta this season. She started two matchups for the winless Dream, averaging 7.5 points and 4.5 boards in 23.5 minutes with the opening unit. She was selected in the second round (17th overall) in the 2007 draft, being named to the WNBA all-rookie team.

Pascalau, 26, wanted to test the WNBA, rejecting a long-term contract from Minnesota because she didn't want to make more than a summer-long committment to a team. She arrived in Seattle days before the season opened on May 17 and didn't have her visa cleared to play until June 3.

"It's been a new experience for her," Agler said after practice today of Pascalau, who played nine minutes this season -- all during the team's three-game losing streak. Her one FG attempt failed and the 6-4 post only grabbed one rebound.

"It's hard to come in late like she did and we start our season and we [haven't had much] practice time and during the practice we do have, we focus on that group that's going to get the majority of the minutes," Agler said. "She's got good skills and she's young enough that she'll develop into being a good player in the WNBA."

Agler ran the reserves about an hour after letting the starters and G Tanisha Wright depart for treatment. The starters practiced for about 90 minutes and C Yolanda Griffith (left knee, ankle) participated in that entire session.

The coach harped at his reserves, looking directly at C Ashley Robinson and F Shyra Ely, when asking if the group was going to practice to "get better otherwise we can get somebody else." He made both respond to the question before re-starting five-on-five play against the practice players, which now includes radio analyst Adia Barnes. Barnes is training to return overseas to play, possibly in Italy.

The bench hasn't been statistically productive, outside of Wright, although Agler has noted several times that the group has made progress. He said today's session was the first where he could solely focus on the reserves without compromising game preparation.

"We don't want to wear out people that play big minutes," he said. "But everybody needs that and we were basically taking [the] time to get them some conditioning."

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June 21, 2008 10:17 AM

Another off day

Posted by Jayda Evans

Don't worry; the Storm's 6-0 mark when having at least two days of practice will still be intact as far as rest goes leading into Tuesday's game against Los Angeles. But the Storm is off today after defeating Indiana on Friday. They'll return to the practice court on Sunday.

Storm C Yolanda Griffith sat in her locker at KeyArena with ice around both knees and her left ankle after playing 20 minutes against the Fever. She contributed five rebounds and six points from the free throw line, but missed all three of her field goal attempts and had three turnovers. She said she's going to rest today and go from there.

F Lauren Jackson also said she's going to rest and then she'll be "fresh" for Tuesday, noting it's going to be a battle. The Sparks feature C Lisa Leslie and phenom Candace Parker, who are making me eat my own personal dish of crow by leading the Western Conference with a 8-3 record. If you recall, I wondered if the GMs were nuts for picking the Sparks in a landslide to win the WNBA title.

But, if we're being honest, my complaint was more that Leslie and Parker hadn't proven themselves (they've done enough now), especially since one is 34 and returning from a first pregnancy and the other is a rookie with a bum shoulder. And my full thought was that I think San Antonio will come out on top in the West. The Silver Stars (8-4) are on a five-game win streak, defeating LA on Friday. So, the dish is more like a Tapas.

Plus, Detroit, my early pick to win the title, is rocking. G Deanna Nolan scored 44 in an overtime win against Minnesota on Friday. The Shock (9-3) is second to Connecticut (10-3) in the East.

But let's remember Jackson and Phoenix G Diana Taurasi scored 47 points apiece in their careers. Taurasi needed three OTs in a WNBA classic win against Houston in 2006 to reach the mark while Jackson needed just one OT in a loss at Washington last season.

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June 20, 2008 5:54 PM

Fever game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM WINS: Seattle loves defense and its team put on a clinic tonight. Jackson scored 11 of her final 18 points in the second half, but it was her two blocks and the team's seven steals after the break that really helped the Storm win. Seattle held Indiana scoreless for 5:16. The team's final 12 steals were a season-high and the Fever couldn't muster a point off the Storm's total 10 turnovers. Hope they keep this game film in their back pocket for reminders if there's ever a lull in the future.

BLEEDING STOPPED: Hoffman stopped the Storm's scoring spree, making a free throw with 2:45 remaining. Jackson was awarded a technical foul for her mouth. Probably long overdue this season. What's $150, right? UPDATE: Jackson said all she said was the bull fecal matter comment, "One of my lighter moments. That's Australian for I love you. I'm putting it down as he is sensitive," she said.

WRIGHT STUFF: Oh, crow taste good, doesn't it? Wright has made back-to-back flashy plays to help the Storm continue their 13-0 run on the Fever. Bird has help keep the fire going with nifty picks and Jackson has shot some threes. Seattle leads 72-59, holding Indiana to just two points so far in the quarter.

RALLY TIME: Yep, the Storm has decided they're not going to lose this one. They've outscored the Fever 5-0 to pull ahead 64-59 with 6:08 remaining. A traditional three-pointer by Jackson at the top of the key forced Dunn to call a timeout.

BIRD'S THE WORD: An old-fashioned three-point play by Bird tied the game again at 59 points apiece. The Storm also played some good defense, drawing a Fever shot clock violation to regain possession of the ball. Maybe a rally is on?

STREAK BROKEN: Griffith missed the team's first free throw attempt, going 0 of 2 from the line with 8:03 remaining in the game. After a Catchings jumper, the Storm is down 59-56 at the 7:53 mark. The Storm is getting outrebounded (31-27) and isn't showing the same fight it had to open the game.

TAKING THE LEAD: LaToya Bond gave the Fever their first lead of the game on -- guess what -- a three-pointer with 59.6 seconds left in the third. Sherill Baker made two free throws to make the score 57-54. Indiana is 8 of 19 from three-point range overall.

LOVING THE FREEBIES: If it weren't for the Storm making all 17 of their free throw attempts, this game would be a lot different. The Fever is shooting 45.5 percent from the field, using timely three-pointers to continually inch closer to Seattle. Catchings just scored her first basket of the night, a three-pointer to tie the score at 52 points apiece with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter.

CATCHINGS APPEARS: Catchings entered the game with about 8:20 remaining in the third quarter. Storm leads 46-37.

AT THE HALF: Well, I worked my over to Donovan and was rejected, again. At least this one came with a smile and a reason. "I'm here socially," she said. Donovan also mentioned that she's hopeful to get a look at Catchings in the second half. The Americans have three spots to fill on the national team roster and a lot is depenent on Catchings' health.

STANDING OVATION: Team USA coach Anne Donovan, the former Storm coach, is in attendance and received a standing ovation from the KeyArena crowd. No, I haven't worked my way over to her seat, but you know I'm going to try. Former Storm assistant Heidi VanDerveer is seated with Donovan.

FOR THREE: The three-pointer has been good to the Fever. They've used two of them this quarter to pull within 29-28. The latest was from Bevilaqua.

DOUGLAS OUT: Douglas has been sitting on the end of the Fever bench with a heating pad on her back. But she's getting back in the game now, telling Dunn she's fine. She was 1 of 3 from the field for two points in seven opening minutes of the game.

SPOTTED: The game crew put a spotlight on Seahawks QB Matt Hasslebeck, who's in attendance with his kids. Sonics legend Slick Watts is also here. And so is Washington assistant women's basketball coach Fred Applin. But is anybody missing Clarence, Betty Lennox's brother? He used to sit in corner courtside seats in a different colored suit for every game. Nice.

BUMP-N-DRAIN: Jackson pinged off Sutton-Brown's defense like a ball on a wall, but turned to recoup and drain an 11-footer that gave the Storm a 23-16 lead at the end of the opening quarter. It's the type of play that should give the Storm confidence throughout the night. The rebounding is even at nine apiece, but Seattle is really making and effort, playing aggressively. The Storm is 5-0 when it has at least two days in between games.

CATCHINGS UPDATE: Dunn said during pregame that F Tamika Catchings would only play 15 minutes and that will probably only be in the second half because of the difficulty to stay warm with limited minutes through two halves.

CASHING IN: It looks like a mismatch, but Bevilaqua (5 foot 7) is guarding Cash (6-1) and has already picked up two fouls while playing her. Bevilaqua is a superior defender, but is getting trapped in bad positions against Cash. The Storm has started out rocking, grabbing six rebounds to the Fever's one and leading 8-0 with 7:32 remaining in the first quarter.

TULLY WINS: Dunn received a warm applause, but it was clear who the crowd favored from the Indiana bench -- Bevilaqua. The crowd went wild for her and there are even some Fever fans wearing the team's gear in attendance tonight.

BOOK TOSS: For those keeping track, G Tanisha Wright has cracked open her first book of the season. Bird gave her a copy of "The Shack" by William P. Young. It's a spiritual read, but Bird said it's not that religious. Wright can't read on planes because it makes her dizzy, but she's squeezing in time with the busy travel schedule.

Storm C Yolanda Griffith is on the court warming up with the posts and will start tonight. Coach Brian Agler is uncertain whether he'll limit her minutes, but will definitely monitor her body language to be sure the self-proclaimed "warrior" isn't trying to suck it up for the team and is actually hurting long-term progress.

Former Storm coach Lin Dunn returns to Seattle a couple times a year since resigning in 2002, so her second return as coach of Indiana hasn't made her jittery. It's her favorite stop on the WNBA tour and she spent pre-game catching up Storm F Lauren Jackson. Dunn was upset to learn that Seattle's road trip to Indiana in July will be one the games Jackson misses.

Fever G Tully Bevilaqua, who helped the Storm win their 2004 title, will also miss WNBA games, joining the Australian national team to train, according to Dunn. Bevilaqua has long wanted to represent her country and it appears she'll finally get that chance.

Fans that show on-time are in for a real treat as jazz musician Michael Powers performs the National Anthem with his funky guitar. He's a fan and is here promoting his latest CD, "20 Songs for 20 Years."

Here are your starting lineups:

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Yolanda Griffith
G Sheryl Swoopes
G Sue Bird

FEVER
F Katie Douglas
F Ebony Hoffman
C Tammy Sutton-Brown
G Tan White
G Tully Bevilaqua

Tonight's officials are Kurt Walker, Shelley Nakasone, and Tom Mauer.

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June 20, 2008 11:28 AM

Checking in on Indiana

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Storm concluded shootaround and C Yolanda Griffith was out on the court with the team, practicing with no apparent complications. She said before that her left ankle is still "tender" and she'll wear a brace to protect her left knee, but not for the whole season because "it clashes with my outfit." Griffith told Indiana F Tamika Catchings that she'd be in the starting lineup tonight.

I counted four uses of the word "scary" when Catchings' name was brought up in reference to her return to the court after suffering a torn right Achilles in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. She was second to Storm F Lauren Jackson for the MVP title. Heck, she's been in the top-10 since she joined the league in 2001, never winning.

Catch will play off the bench tonight, giving the Fever a huge advantage if Storm reserves Ashley Robinson, Shyra Ely, Katie Gearlds, and Tanisha Wright (if Yo starts) don't produce. Even the Indianapolis papers focused on the bench, featuring veteran Allison Feaster.

Seattle (7-6) has nothing to reflect on since Indiana (6-4) only has three players remaining on the roster from when the Fever played the Storm during the exhibition season. But as Jackson said, the focus is more on themselves and snapping the three-game losing streak.

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June 20, 2008 8:34 AM

Donovan speaks about Hammon -- again

Posted by Jayda Evans

She didn't speak to me, of course, but national team coach Anne Donovan tells USA Today that she "never meant to criticize Becky." Since the "criticism" has circulated for about a month, I wonder why it took Donovan so long to come to that conclusion. Anyway, you can read more here.

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June 19, 2008 1:50 PM

Party at Ely's

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm F Shyra Ely's mother and aunt are in town this week and they're hooking the team up. After practice this afternoon at KeyArena, Ely made an announcement that all her teammates had to do was write down on a sheet of paper what they wanted for dinner and Momma Ely would whip it up tonight. Now that's a pre-game meal.

"They've done it since college," said Ely, a Tennessee alum. "They usually unpack me, too, but it's been a month. But they cook and clean and everything. We'll have catfish and cornbread and chicken -- everything."

Storm F Lauren Jackson said she requested macaroni and cheese and fried chicken.

"I love fried chicken," she said with a big grin. The native Australian almost put in a request for chitlins (pig intestines) and cracklin (fried pork fat), but didn't because her mother "makes the best cracklin."

I had to put the breaks on, wondering where an Aussie finds those traditional southern American foods.

"I've been around," Jackson said coyly before adding that she's had friends that have cooked the dishes for her and her mother did play at Louisiana State University, picking up the bayou spices in college. Plus, chitlins are just as salty and nasty as Vegemite, so...yeah, that comment got me a playful slap from Jackson.

The dinner is well deserved after the two days of practice the Storm had this week. Jackson estimated that coach Brian Agler held two hours of meetings, discussing a need for the Storm to be more aggressive with the hustle plays and rebounding. The team tweaked a lot of offensive problems and veteran Yolanda Griffith should return from a left knee and ankle injury.

"I still have some soreness in my ankle and that's the concern right now," said Griffith, who will wear a knee and ankle braces on both feet for Friday's game. She tore her ACL in her left knee while playing in Germany in 1995 and injured her right knee in 1999 during the playoffs with Sacramento. "But it's my judgement if I can tolerate the soreness in my ankle. The good thing is, since it happened, I haven't had a lot of swelling. I've been getting treatment twice a day and we'll see. I know it's important for me to help this team and be the center they need me to be. But it's also important that we be smart about the situation because we're 13 games in and still have more games left. This means that everybody has to step up even more."

The Storm (7-6) faces an Indiana (6-4) squad that's finally at full strength 10 games into the season. F Tamika Catchings has returned from a torn right Achilles and Tammy Sutton-Brown is back in the lineup. Coach Lin Dunn, Seattle's original coach, said Catchings is only 75 percent healthy and will be limited to 15 minutes of play. The Fever is 1-1 since Catchings' return.

"I'm just excited about being out here with my teammates," she said. "The first game [Sunday] was a struggle, but [the win against New York Wednesday], was a lot better. Hopefully I'll be able to keep rolling those minutes and stay out there. The end of the season is more important than the beginning."

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June 19, 2008 12:29 PM

Storm to host clinic

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm F Shyra Ely will host a basketball clinic on June 28. Here are the details directly from the team:

STORM AND ALLSTATE TO HOST YOUTH BASKETBALL CLINICS
Storm player and coach to teach fundamentals and team play at Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club

SEATTLE, Thursday June 19, 2008 -- The Seattle Storm, the Boys and Girls Clubs and Allstate Insurance will host a youth basketball clinic for youth ages 7 -- 15 on Saturday, June 28, 2008. Led by Storm forward Shyra Ely and assistant coach Shelly Patterson, participants will learn the same drills Storm players use during their practices including shooting, ball-handling, defense and team play. They will focus on fundamentals of the game and the importance of having fun while on the court.

Following the clinic Ely and Patterson, the team will host a Q&A and autograph session where participants can learn more about how these positive role models achieved the success they enjoy today.

WHEN: Saturday, June 28, 2008

3 p.m. -- 4:30 p.m.

Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club

12400 80th Avenue South

Seattle, WA 98178

COST: Free of charge

Pre-registration is encouraged and participants should arrive at least 15 minutes early. For more information regarding pre-registration, contact the Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club at (206) 436-1920.

About the Seattle Storm: The Seattle Storm is one of seven independently owned teams in the WNBA, the world's preeminent women's professional basketball league. Established in 2000, the Storm is committed to bringing outstanding professional basketball to a diverse and rapidly growing fan base. The team also plays an active role in promoting literacy, health and fitness, support for women and girls and youth basketball in local communities.

About Allstate: The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer. Widely known through the "You're In Good Hands With Allstate" slogan, Allstate helps individuals in approximately 17 million households protect what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow through approximately 14,800 exclusive agencies and financial representatives in the U.S. and Canada. Customers can access Allstate products and services such as auto insurance and homeowners insurance through Allstate agencies, or in select states at allstate.com and 1-800 Allstate. Encompass and Deerbrook Insurance brand property and casualty products are sold exclusively through independent agents. The Allstate Financial Group provides life insurance, supplemental accident and health insurance, annuity, banking and retirement products designed for individual, institutional and worksite customers that are distributed through Allstate agencies, independent agencies, financial institutions and broker-dealers.

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June 18, 2008 9:59 AM

TV Alert

Posted by Jayda Evans

Life on the court has been rough in Atlanta for former Storm starters Betty Lennox and Iziane Castro Marques. Doubt it gets any better tonight when the expansion Dream (0-10) hosts San Antonio (6-4). But if you're missing the duo, you can catch the game tonight on NBA-TV at 4 p.m. PST.

Local papers focused on G Becky Hammon's decision to play for Russia in the upcoming games and Lennox extended her support, stating, "I've been coached by Anne Donovan and it wouldn't surprise me the things she's saying abut Becky."

Incidentally, for those concerned about Donovan's health after seeing clips of the former Storm coach on TV, I spoke with Connecticut coach Mike Thibault, who said she's in good spirits and is in good health from what he knows. Thibault will serve as one of Donovan's national team assistants and said he spends about one day a week dealing with USA Basketball during the WNBA season.

As for his opinion on Hammon, he's staying out of it.

"I don't really have an opinion about the whole thing," Thibault said. "I don't know, is Anne getting as much criticism as Becky? I don't know. It has become an issue that nobody will totally understand on either side. That's all I'll say. There's been things that haven't been talked about and there's no point in doing it. It's a different generation and the money in Europe is so different. At this point, I just really don't have an opinion on it."

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June 17, 2008 12:45 PM

Off day

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Storm is off today and here's hoping C Yolanda Griffith is getting all the rest she needs to never miss a game again. F Lauren Jackson obviously needs back-up or a sidekick or whatever you want to call Griffith inside and it's keeping the Storm (7-6) from being really effective.

Griffith's absence also highlights the team's need for post play. C Ashley Robinson had productive games in home wins against Detroit and Phoenix, blocking a combined four shots and doing some intangibles in her total 16 minutes of play. But whether due to the right Achilles injury or inconsistency, she's dropped off the past three games, playing a total of 16 minutes and not contributing anything.

Storm F Swin Cash is another frustrating conundrum. She started the season scoring in double figures in the opening six games, averaging 16.2 points. I figured after getting past the whole Detroit- Bill Laimbeer reunion mess -- where Cash was a combined 6 of 20 from the field in the home-and-home set -- she'd return to her normal self.

But Cash's tag of being a streaky player seemingly has followed her to Seattle. She's shooting 27.5 percent in her past five games for an average of 8.6 points. Not good. Especially since the Storm is 2-3 during the stretch and most of Cash's misses were late in games when the Storm rallied back, but can't get over the hump because of poor shooting and lax defense.

It's almost shocking that this team is nearly at .500 after starting the way it did. Some point to them playing the most games of any WNBA team, but that's a bunch of hooey. This is the pros and they aren't in any type of unusual grind that other teams aren't experiencing. Think LA whined when they opened the season with five road games? And Connecticut was in the midst of a five-game road trip. Seattle has only played quick back-to-backs.

Yes, the loss of Griffith is major. But possibly Laimbeer was right when he questioned how much quality Seattle would have in reserve when it put a lot of money in high-priced starters, three of which are returning from injury last season. It's still early, but the three-game losing streak is a trend the Storm needs to snap quick.

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June 16, 2008 6:51 PM

Sun game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

SUN SHINES: It's rare in Seattle, but folks are headed for the doors as the Sun puts the final touches on a 74-67 win. It's deafeningly quiet in KeyArena. A few people have decided to clap, but most are upset. Turner just pumped a fist at press row and is screaming as she heads back into the locker room. Guess she wanted this one, finishing with 13 points.

NO CHANCE: Part of the Storm's problem is not getting second-chance shot opportunities. Seattle is getting outscored in that category 24-7 by the Sun. Jackson has tied the game, again, this time at 63 points apiece with 2:39 remaining.

BASIC LAYUP?: The layin isn't a friend of the Storm. The team has many this season and none has hurt more than the dozen missed in this game. Wright missed one in the fourth quarter that could have tied the game at 59. But Swoopes was just fouled on a fast break, so possibly she can tie the game with 5:21 remaining.

TURNING IT UP: The Sun bench is way more productive offensively than the Storm's. Turner has 10 points and two rebounds to help Connecticut build a 52-50 lead. It's an exciting back-and-forth type of pace, though. Seattle just needs more than average defense from its bench. They need to score and pull of a couple of stops, too.

LJ-4-THREE: Jackson just gave the Storm the lead with a three-pointer off a dish from Bird. But Turner, who worked on her three-point shooting during the offseason, just took it back with her own. Turner looks great physically, but Shyra Ely has been playing well for the Storm. Ely is off tonight, though, missing two attempts in 11 minutes. She does have two assists and one rebound. Storm is down 42-41.

BYE-BYE BIRDY: Bird collected her fourth foul, apparently hooking Whalen on a play. Rookie Kimberly Beck replaced her with 0.5 seconds remaining in the half. Whalen gave the Sun the lead 37-36. That foul is going to hurt.

TIE GAME: Whalen found her shot and tied the game at 34 with a jumper. Bird is shooting well at 5 of 7 from the field, but the team is getting called for fouls and isn't playing smart, aggressive defense.

SUN RISING: The Sun is on a 10-4 run behind the play of their starters, which have finally joined the game. Anderson has led with five points during the spurt. Storm shooting has dropped to 47.8 percent while Wright is making mistakes, collecting her third foul with 5:51 remaining in the half. Storm leads 28-27, and Bird just committed an offensive foul to turn the ball over again.

GIMME THAT: Jackson just took the ball from Sun G Barbara Turner, who was trying for a late-second shot. The Storm couldn't convert, but is off to a good start and leads 24-15 at the end of the first quarter. The Storm is shooting 52.6 percent from the field and outscoring the Sun 16-6 inside. Not hard when Connecticut's tallest player is 6 feet 2. The Sun is winning the rebounding battle, 12-9.

QUICK CHANGE: Connecticut coach Mike Thibault changed out his entire starting five at the 5:32 mark for a 3-for-12 start while the Storm breezed to the hoop. The bench pulled the Sun back into the game, but Connecticut is still down 13-6 at the first timeout. FYI, the technical difficulties have been fixed and if you like, you can catch Connecticut's feed of the game on NBA-TV.

NKOTB: If you know that acronym you're just as cheesy as the game crew at KeyArena (and me). Wright is still playing with fire and the game crew gave her a tag song, New Kids on the Block's "You got it (the right stuff)" Wright has scored four of the Storm's opening 11 points and collected a steal which she passed ahead to Cash for a layin. Seattle leads 11-2.

Stopped by the Sonics' rally outside the downtown courthouse today and it was an emotional sight. About 1,200 people decked in green and gold were there with Gary Payton, Spencer Hawes, and Xavier McDaniel participating as celebrity speakers. Green and gold balloons and various homemade signs peppered the crowd and you could hear the chanting all the way up on the 18th floor, where the proceedings were taking place.

As I watched the crowd, all I could think is I'm glad the Storm isn't tied up in the mess anymore. And, hopefully, something is worked out so that a NBA team remains in Seattle. It's just wrong to have one and not the other.

The Sonics rally, beautiful (and rare) 70-degree weather, plus a Mariners game may hurt the Storm's attendance tonight. The crowd is modest so far, as players go through introductions. One good sight is the return of F Kelly Santos from her Brazilian national team. She helped her country grab the last berth for the Beijing Games.

Sun G Barbara Turner received a warm and extended welcome from the KeyArena crowd due to some technical difficulties that delayed the Storm intro. Things are still trying to be worked out, cancelling the Storm intro, so here are your starting lineups.

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Sheryl Swoopes
C Lauren Jackson
G Tanisha Wright
G Sue Bird

SUN
F Tamika Whitmore
F Asjha Jones
C Amber Holt
G Jolene Anderson
G Lindsay Whalen

The officials are Michael Price, Kevin Sparrock, James Williams

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June 16, 2008 6:16 PM

Houston rewind

Posted by Jayda Evans

Well, Dee Kantner, WNBA supervisor of officials, is attending the Storm's game against Connecticut tonight. And as for the Houston flub her three-person crew had on Saturday, she wouldn't comment on the record. She did speak with coach Brian Agler, however.

"What we felt like happened, happened," Agler said. "We can't be accused of being blind. It can't be changed, so you've sort of got to move on."

Agler reviewed the tape and F Tina Thompson's key three-pointer shouldn't have counted because it was after the shot clock horn sounded. The jump ball directly over G Mwadi Mabika's head was also an error. But Seattle won't be awarded a win, so it just goes down as known mistakes when Seattle was making a push for the win in the closing seconds.

Kantner said she hasn't been to Reliant Arena, the Comets' new facility, so she doesn't know what the crew went through. In the crew's defense, the arena doesn't have backboards that fully light up when the shot clock horn sounds, making the Thompson call difficult. The horn was also a light sound, competing with a loud crowd. "But they knew that going in," Agler said.

I don't have a bone to throw for Roy Gulbeyan's jump ball toss, however. I did learn that officials are fined, starting at $25 each for missed applied rules. They are not fined for judgement calls and both the jump ball and three-pointer were judgment calls.

If fans are still upset for their team, guess what, Kantner will speak at a season-ticket holder function in Seattle on July 27.

"I can't believe I just gave you the 411 on that," Kantner said.

Yep, me neither, so get your questions ready and note that they can't be specific. But she's willing to answer any general query.

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June 16, 2008 11:25 AM

Checking in on Connecticut

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm C Yolanda Griffith will miss her second consecutive start due a left knee and ankle injury suffered Friday in the opening half of the road San Antonio loss. Griffith walked into shootaround this morning without an apparent limp and MRIs taken on the leg showed no structural damage, but she'll be fitted for an ACL-type brace and ease her way back into practice this week.

G Tanisha Wright is going to start in Griffith's place, moving F Lauren Jackson to the center position and running a similar lineup that ended the Houston loss on Saturday. Storm coach Brian Agler is comfortable with the matchups, even though C Ashley Robinson may not be able to help with depth due to her nagging right Achilles injury.

"It [matchups] helps us, but Connecticut probably plays the game of basketball as well as anybody in the league," Agler said of the 8-2 Sun. "It's how they play together, especially at the offensive end. They might be playing as well as anybody, went into overtime [in the loss] at L.A. And before that game, they had a week of practice. I don't expect anything but great basketball out of them tonight. And it's going to be a whale of a challenge because we haven't had a chance to do a great preparation. They're a team that you'd like to have some time before you play them."

Connecticut has been in Seattle since Saturday. And former Storm F Barbara Tuner was all smiles in returning to KeyArena for Connecticut shootaround this morning. She's a spark off the bench after a rocky start to her WNBA career, getting cut by the Storm late in training camp last season for arriving late from overseas play. Turner, a third-year vet, said that Turkey knew what she was going through and she'll probably return to the country to play this offseason, thankfully not getting black balled for caving to former coach Anne Donovan's pressure to break her contract during the playoffs.

It's another reunion as Storm F Swin Cash and G Sue Bird were college roommates with Sun F Asjha Jones and Tamika Raymond at the University of Connecticut. They exchanged big hugs at shootaround. But Bird hugged practically the entire team, knowing others through USA Basketball, overseas, and on and on.

The game will be more competitive than when the Storm defeated the Sun for the 2004 title. The Sun, in the midst of a five-game road trip, is playing top-tier basketball while Seattle remains shaky, playing best at home (6-0). Here are a few stories to get you prepped from Connecticut's angle.

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June 15, 2008 10:02 PM

Happy Father's Day!

Posted by Jayda Evans

For the first time since assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg was with the Storm, the team has a father in its midst. So, Happy Father's Day to Storm coach Brian Agler and Kloppenburg, who's with Indiana, and all of the other fathers in the WNBA. Even you, Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer. And a special shout out to my father -- hope you enjoyed the steak!

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June 15, 2008 12:27 PM

Brazil advances to Olympics

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Storm gained another Olympian when Brazil defeated Cuba today 72-67 to nab the final Olympic berth in the FIBA Olympic Qualifier Tournament for Women in Spain. F Kelly Santos contributed 10 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes.

Brazil outscored Cuba 27-20 in the final quarter to pull from behind and breakaway in the close game. The team played without former Storm F Iziane Castro Marques (Atlanta), who was kicked off the team following an argument with her coach. The ban is supposedly permanent, but there is no official word that Castro Marques, a star player for the country, will not compete in the Olympics.

Santos, now a three-time Olympian, will return to Seattle this week and should be back in a Storm uniform by Friday's game against Indiana. She said earlier that she would not leave early to train with her national team for the Beijing Games.

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June 14, 2008 4:37 PM

Comets game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM LOSES: Tight quarters prevent me from getting the whole locker room experience, but talking to Swoopes, Bird, Jackson, and Agler outside was enough. The Storm is peeved about officiating and Agler said the league "will get some calls." Talked to Houston coach Karleen Thompson about it and she gave the predictable, you've got to play through it response. She said her team focused on this game with its week of practice. The Comets also honed in on defense, collecting their second win of the season 68-60.

CALLING DEE KANTNER: Seriously, you have to take a look at this tape and evaluate this crew. I know Gulbeyan is one of your better dudes, but really? He just tossed a jump ball above Mabika's head, making it easier for her to get possession on a jumpball against the 6-foot-5 Jackson. The two even laughed about it afterward, telling you there was an issue there. Then, there was the buzzer incident and a few other whoppers in this critical game. Not good for the league. I understand why Agler couldn't keep his cool and was called for a late tech.

OFFICIALS MISS ANOTHER: One problem with this arena is that the buzzer is real light. That proved to be a problem when the shot-clock horn appeared to sound before Thompson made a three-pointer at the top of the key to pull the Comets ahead 62-58. Cash blocked Thompson's first attempt, which Thompson recovered and flung at the hoop for the miraculous make. The crowd of 7,023 went nuts.

NOT MONEY II: The layins are giving Cash trouble as of late. Wright scored two quick buckets to pull the Storm close and a fast break layin by Bird made the score 59-55, but the Storm could have used the points from Cash. Seattle has not led and with 1:09 remaining the have the ball. Nope, they just turned it over.

THE WINNER IS: I'm giving dirtiest player to Mwadi Mabika. She's pulling out all of the moves tonight and isn't even really trying to hide it. Earlier, she did some warm-ups right in front of me and I thought she might say something about my earlier post. (I doubt she reads, but I know others in the league do and could have passed along word) I just smiled because I thankfully don't have to play against the woman. Well, she's taking it all out on the Storm, clothes lining Cash and Bird on fast breaks. The Storm is down 55-48 with 5:58 remaining in the game.

WRIGHT STUFF: If only the Storm could stop Thompson. Otherwise three-pointers from Jackson and aggressive layins by reserve Tanisha Wright had the Storm back in the game. I said had, because as I typed this entry, the Comets scored two buckets and outrebounded the Storm to pull back ahead 46-37. Snow has 16 boards, by the way, a season-high.

ROBINSON LIMPING: A-Rob is walking a little gingerly on her right foot as the third quarter starts. She's still on the court, but missed a rebound and committed a foul that seemed to be because she's favoring the foot. No baskets have been scored as of yet, just a lot of sloppy play.

OFFICIALS MISS ONE: F Sancho Lyttle clearly traveled with the basketball, grabbing a rebound and jumping twice without it being swatted or a dribble in between, and scored on a putback to make the score 29-25 at the break. The Storm is continuing the fourth-quarter trend from Friday, missing shots that could put them ahead. Hopefully that changes in the second half.

NBA FRIENDS: Haven't spotted Steve Francis, who's a normal regular at Comets games, but J.R. Smith is seated courtside. Franklin High alum and current Rocket G Aaron Brooks is also courtside with his daughter on his lap. Storm defense has picked back up and they only trail 27-20 with 2:56 remaining before halftime.

PASCALAU CHECKS IN: The Storm is using all of their players tonight in absence of Griffith. Seattle is shooting horribly at 20.6 percent, while the Comets have found their stroke and lead 21-13.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: There is some great defense going on from both teams, especially Johnson's play on Bird. The Comets denied the Storm a final shot at the buzzer and lead 16-11. This matchup resulted in a one-point decision in favor of Seattle at KeyArena earlier this month and it looks like the same is going to happen tonight.

RADIO TROUBLES: Yeah, if radio sounds funny, that's because the crew is delivering the call via cell phone. Like I said, things are different here. But you gotta give it to Dick Fain for his dedication. Adia Barnes is just chilling until the technical crew gets things going hopefully for the second half.

FEELING GREEN: Swoopes made her first bucket as a Storm on her old Comets court at the 5:51 mark of the opening quarter, a rebound putback off her own miss. Seattle is tied with Houston at six points apiece.

DIXON OUT: Should have mentioned earlier that Houston G Tamecka Dixon is out on personal leave.

FIRST DIS: While Swoopes received a rousing applause during the quick visitor introductions, one fan directly across from the bench held up a sign that read, "Sheryl Who?" And local media complained of her attitude last season, saying if they were a fan, they wouldn't care about her return.

Storm C Yolanda Griffith will not start tonight due to soreness in her left knee and ankle. She suffered the injury in the opening half of Seattle's loss to San Antonio on Friday. Storm coach Brian Agler said he would play Griffith is it were a significant game, such as the playoffs, but since it's the second of a back-to-back set and early in the season, he's going to be cautious.

Storm C Ashley Robinson will start in Griffith's place. Robinson was feeling pain in her right Achilles on Friday, but told her coach she is feeling better today. The Storm may also have to dip deep to use Romanian Florina Pascalau.

Reliant Arena is real, hmm, different. You can see potential, but I'm told its normal use is a rodeo site and something else with horses. You can tell because the flies are everywhere. OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but they're really bothering the typing.

The Storm's locker room looks like your average high school gym locker room. Nothing special and nothing unexpected because teams rarely treat visitors well. But Houston's locker room, while featuring nice chairs and wooden lockers, it's very tubular, too. The arena seats are orange and green. The Comets decorated by hanging the championship banners and retired jerseys. The standard "Make Some Noise" and player name banners are also sprinkled about to bring in the Comets blue and red coloring.

Storm F Sheryl Swoopes is taking shots while the arena fills with fans. Some are waving to her, possibly parts of the 25 friends and family she snagged tickets for. She's not the only Houstonian making a homecoming, though. The New York Yankees are staying at the same hotel as the Storm and pitcher Andy Pettitte claims Houston as home, playing for the Astros from 2004-06.

Well, here are tonight's starters:

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Ashley Robinson
G Sue Bird
G Sheryl Swoopes

COMETS
F Hamche-tou Maiga-Ba
F Tina Thompson
C Michelle Snow
G Shannon Johnson
G Matee Ajavon

Tonight's officials are Roy Gulbeyan, Amy Bonner, and Shelley Nakasone.

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June 14, 2008 12:49 PM

Brazil still alive; Castro Marques headed back to WNBA

Posted by Jayda Evans

Former Storm F Iziane Castro Marques did not help Brazil advance past Angola 75-58 today to reach the Finals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifier Tournament for Women where the final spot for the Beijing Games will be decided on Sunday. And the scoring leader will not compete on Sunday, instead heading back to rejoin her new Atlanta Dream due to an argument with Brazilian coach Paulo Bassul.

Castro Marques didn't play in the second half of Brazil's loss to Belarus on Friday because Bassul said he wanted to "mix things up" to get the team going after losing a lead. He wanted her to play in overtime, but Castro Marques refused to enter because she was cold and "felt the players on the court should decide the game."

"I'm ready for the criticism (in Brazil) because I've had it for my whole life," Castro Marques said. "I'm used to it. I'm sorry for what I did. I know what I did was a mistake -- but I didn't feel mentally ready to go back into the game. I was on the bench for 20 minutes. I'm the person who should be on the court for most of the game. In overtime, I was cold, not prepared...I apologized to Claudinha because she's the captain."

Castro Marques said that as long as Bassul is coach of the national team, she will not play, meaning she will not compete in the Olympics should Brazil and Bassul advance. Bassul has already kicked her off the team.

Meanwhile Storm F Kelly Santos had 10 points and three boards in 14 minutes today.

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June 14, 2008 11:09 AM

Checking in on Houston

Posted by Jayda Evans

It's all about Storm F Sheryl Swoopes' return today. The papers have caught up with other players who switched teams after making their name in one uniform and Swoopes is just the latest.

It'll be interesting to see Reliant Arena for the first time. Heard all kinds of stories, but Comets F Tina Thompson likes the move from the Toyota Center. I kind of miss the days when Houston played at the Compaq Center, even that circus smell (remember that Houstonians?). The place was rocking in the team's early years (winning titles helps) and now it's a mega church. I've only seen the Toyota Center full a few times during the playoffs and I believe when the team let Hurricane Katrina victims in for free. Otherwise it had a desolate feeling.

"Some people enjoy a really big house that's really fancy and it's museum-like and they have a lot of really cool things in there," Thompson said in comparing the Toyota Center with Reliant Arena. "And other people enjoy a very quaint and comfortable house that you can make a home. It's a matter of opinion, I guess. You can be in this huge big house that has no life or feeling in it and people come to it and aren't very comfortable. Versus coming to a nice-sized, middle-class home where you're very comfortable and you don't have to take your shoes off -- you just kick your feet up and have a good time. That's the Toyota Center versus Reliant Arena.

"We are wanted in Reliant Arena. They are very happy to have us there and it feels like home. It's very reminiscent of the Compaq Center. The Toyota Center wasn't a great situation on both parts. You come into a place and you don't feel comfortable there or that the people there don't want you. So, the move was good for us. We were very restricted in the aspect that we didn't have the same openness or freedom that the Rocket players had. It didn't affect me, personally, but as a team we were. If my teammates aren't comfortable as a whole then it makes me uncomfortable."

The Comets (1-7) are one of the league's seven independently owned franchises, spliting from the Rockets in 2007. I've heard the approximate 7,000-seat Reliant Center needs some love, but if new owner Hilton Koch invests in it, the Comets can return to the successful franchise they were in the late 1990s.

The game won't be aired, but be sure to checkout the rematch of last season's WNBA Finals on ABC at 12:30 PST today when Detroit (7-3) plays struggling defending champion Phoenix (2-5).

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June 13, 2008 4:14 PM

Silver Stars game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM LOSES: San Antonio found itself in the second half and scrapped its way to a 74-69 win, remaining one of the final three teams to be undefeated at home. The Storm looked dejected after the game and things don't get any easier as they face a struggling Houston that's looking for a win on Saturday. The Storm also dropped the series to San Antonio 1-2, which could matter later during seeding for the playoffs. Now the Silver Stars have the head-to-head advantage against the Storm.

A WRAP?: Seattle had to foul, so Bird did so on Johnson. But despite only being to the line 10 times this season, Johnson calmly made both FTs and the Silver Stars have a 73-69 lead en route to an apparent win with 14.0 seconds remaining. The Storm really blew this one in the second half.

SHADDY CALLS: There was some confusion on whether Buescher had six fouls or not (ruled not) and Jackson was called for a phantom foul that put Young at the line to extend the lead to 71-68 with 25.9 remaining. Bird had the ball stripped from her and Seattle's shooting has cooled for the unfortunate turn. Bird is in-bounding the ball now for a last stab at the win.

LEAD VANISHED: With a flick of the wrist, Wauters made an over-the-shoulder layin against Jackson to give the Silver Stars their first lead since 5-3 at 63-61 with 4:16 remaining. The Storm called a timeout, but their attempts ended up being turnovers.

NOT MONEY: Cash is struggling tonight, 1 of 7 from the field. She had a couple of chances to put Seattle ahead, but couldn't convert under the hoop. The game is tied again, this time at 61 points apiece with 4:33 remaining. The crowd is smaller than the Storm's last visit, but they're real loud and on their feet trying to help the team to its fifth consecutive home win.

TIE GAME: Young tied the game at 56 points apiece for her team on a three-pointer at the top of the key. Bird tried to respond, but missed her ensuing attempt. No worries. The Storm used fast break layins by Swoopes and Jackson to pull back ahead 60-56 with 7:34 remaining in the game.

DIRTY DARLING?: Man, I'm surprised Swoopes didn't smack Darling in the face with the way the G was up in her grill, swinging her hands and yelling "Ball! Ball!" Swoopes got the call, though, and calmly went to the line for two. Seattle is clinging to a 56-53 lead at the end of the quarter, not playing as precisely as they did in the opening half.

SILVER STREAK: San Antonio is making its expected push, Hammon made a three-pointer and then dished ahead to Buescher for a layin to close the gap to 50-46 with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter. Seattle is a little sloppy with the ball and has missed some baskets that went in earlier in the game. Ashley Robinson is telling her teammates to "talk it out" during the timeout. A Bird three-pointer swung the momentum back.

THEIVERY CONTINUES: Swoopes' timing in the steals is uncanny. She picked up another, but couldn't convert on the layin. Was going to talk about how she's scoreless, but she just made a leaning jay for her first bucket of the game. Storm leads 45-34 with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter.

END OF HALF: Unlike their last oh, three trips to San Antonio, Seattle is off to an impressive start and leading the Silver Stars 40-30 at the break. They have 14 assists on 17 made FGs and have limited San Antonio to four offensive rebounds, I beleive all on the same possession. The Storm closed the second quarter on a 15-9 run and Bird still leads all scores with 17 points. She also has five assists.

BECKY BOUNCE: Hammon nearly pulled an LJ, bouncing the basketball and walking toward the official in anger toward a call. She stopped herself, though, and tried to smile it off. Her San Antonio team is still struggling, shooting 35.3 percent from the field and getting outrebounded 21-18.

GRIFFITH OUT: Griffith is back on the bench, Agler telling her the matchup wasn't right. At least she's able to play. Storm is up 36-28 with 2:58 in the opening half remaining after a Katie Geralds layin.

GRIFFITH BACK: Griffith is back from the locker room and set to check into the game on the next break.

AGLER HARPING: The Storm is playing well, but Agler is pushing his team, knowing this is just the beginning and who knows what type of adjustments the Silver Stars are going to make at the break. He just had a talk with Wright, telling her to "Get in the moment and play." Wright has made a few mental errors, but everything is covered by the awesome play of Bird. She is now 6 of 7 from the field for a game-leading 17 points.

GRIFFITH UPDATE: Yo is still in the locker room with a tweaked left knee and ankle. It's her decision on whether she'll return, but Ely is holding it down. She hit another basket for four points and three boards.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: Griffith is still in the locker room, but the Storm is on fire to start the game. Bird is 4 of 5 from the field, attacking the basket, and Jackson has four rebounds. Ely has also helped off the bench, making some strong moves and playing good defense. The only blip was G Tanisha Wright tripping to the court on a late-second play to end the quarter.

GRIFFITH HURT: Griffith looked like sje was going to glide to the hoop for an open layin, but as the defense closed around her, she pulled up and crumbled to the court in pain. Griffith walked off on her own and appears OK. The Storm is aggressive tonight, leading 12-5 and holding the Silver Stars to 16.7 percent shooting (1 of 6). F Shyra Ely replaced her in the lineup.

SUE FOR THREE: Possibly the streak of ugly shooting is over for Bird. She hit her first shot, a three-pointer, and then collected a steal which she converted into a layin for five of Seattle's opening 7-5 lead.

Only three teams in the league are undefeated at home. San Antonio is one at 4-0, losing all four of its games on the road. Seattle (6-0) and Detroit (4-0) are the other teams with perfect records on its home court.

The Storm hopes to break the streak tonight in their quest for homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. Seattle also wants to rack up as many wins as possible before losing two-time MVP Lauren Jackson for five games next month as she prepares for the Olympics with her Australian national team.

As you probably guessed, it's sweltering hot in Texas. Hit 100-degrees earlier this week and was in the 90s today. No pool time for me, though, last time I tried that move on game day, my brain warped on deadline.

It's a reunion all-around (what game isn't?) as former Storm guard Edwidge Lawson-Wade caught up with her old teammates and Storm coach Brian Agler chatted with former boss, San Antonio coach Dan Hughes. And Jackson sat atop the scorer's table to talk with former Storm guard Sandy Brondello, who's an assistant coach in San Antonio with her husband Olaf Lange. Brondello also had son Brody in tow.

The Silver Stars shook-up their starting lineup, swapping Erin Buescher for Helen Darling. Belgium center Ann Wauters has also worked her way into the starting five, getting the nod over Ruth Riley.

Here's tonight's complete starting lineups:

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Yolanda Griffith
G Sheryl Swoopes
G Sue Bird

INACTIVE: None

SILVER STARS
F Erin Buescher
F Sophia Young
C Ann Wauters
G Vickie Johnson
G Becky Hammon

INACTIVE: None

Tonight's officials are Jeffery Smith, Angelica Suffren, and Daryl Humphrey

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June 13, 2008 1:05 PM

Brazil loses in quarterfinals

Posted by Jayda Evans

Izi.jpgBrazil, featuring Storm F Kelly Santos and Atlanta F Iziane Castro Marques (pictured left), lost today 86-79 in overtime to Belarus in the quarterfinal round of the FIBA Olympic Qualifier tournament for women. I'll update this later on what's next for Brazil. The tournament is a last-chance effort for the final five Olympic berths.

In other Olympic news, Australia won an automatic berth by winning the World Championships title last year, but according to this article, the country faces an uncertain future with the sport.

UPDATE: Well, it seems Castro Marques benched herself in the second half of the loss because of a passionate fight with her coach during halftime. Apparently she's also dropped from the national team, meaning she will not be part of Brazil's final quest to advance to the Olympic Games against Angola on Saturday. Castro Marques had 12 points while Santos had a team-leading nine rebounds and six points today.

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June 12, 2008 7:56 PM

Mailbag: Dirty WNBA players?

Posted by Jayda Evans

So, I was asked my opinion about the non-calls against Lauren Jackson and it made me laugh. Sure, LJ got a chuckle with the media following the Phoenix game when asked what Diana Taurasi was saying after hitting those three-pointers and getting fouled. "She's saying a lot of stuff, none of which I feel comfortable repeating, she's funny," Jackson responded. Know that I love LJ's play, but she should talk. As foul-mouthed as Taurasi is on the court, Jackson is just as bad.

And as for the flying elbows and sneaky fouls, I'd have to say the duo is about equal and not just when they play each other. Jackson has become "cleaner" as she's matured, but she's still a sneaky player that believes she does no wrong. And while I'd say officiating has not improved much in my years covering the league, it's still equal-opportunity bad. If all the fouls that were made were actually called, they'd be pulling me, Adia Barnes, and the rest of press row out the stands to play.

Others on the list of dirty players? Definitely DeLisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles), Mwadi Mabika (Houston), when she does play, Janel McCarville (New York), and Plenette Pierson (Detroit).

I say the cleaner players are Tully Bevilaqua (Indiana), Sheryl Swoopes (Seattle), and, this is going to hurt Storm fans, but Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles). Even though Leslie does a few devilish moves, it's player-specific. Swoopes will make a disgusted face on the court, but she's so business-like, it's creepy. And I'm curious what your thoughts are.

Still, I love the fire of a Jackson and Taurasi. It makes the game more fun to watch. Plus, I'm always wondering when things will go to blows, again. Just so you know, Jackson said she'd take Taurasi in a fight between the Phoenix star and Yolanda Griffith, because "I've seen her [Taurasi] fight," Jackson said.

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June 11, 2008 6:18 PM

Mercury game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM WINS: Swoopes hit a three-pointer with 30.9 seconds remaining and the Storm stayed undefeated at home with an 83-77 victory before 7,483 fans. Phoenix attempted 31 three-pointers, 21 by Pondexter and Taurasi alone, which is a Storm opponent record. But the Mercury didn't try to grab any rebounds, allowing Seattle a franchise-best 52. Cash scored her 2,500-point off a jumper with 8:42 remaining in the second quarter and Swoopes scored a season-high 17 points. Jackson even got an earmark game with her first double-double (20 points, 17 rebounds). With Ely playing well off the bench and the starting five clicking, it was entertaining all-around. Bird was even funny afterward talking about her horrible shooting night, "You know it's bad when the free throws don't go in and then the crowd starts to cheer for you -- the pity cheer. That's life."

INJURY UPDATE: Ely is fine, just a little shook from the fall. And Bird is back to normal, too, hitting a driving layin with 4:19 remaining in the game for her first field goal. Storm leads 70-63, keeping Pondexter quiet (and in foul trouble with five). But Taurasi is putting on a show with 34 points to make the score 70-66 with 3:27 left.

ELY DOWN: Reserve Shyra Ely appeared to take a charge on Pondexter (it was ruled a Ely foul) and was plowed over, remaining backside on the court for a moment. She was assisted to the locker room. We'll have an update later.

BIRD OFF: Crowd is on its feet in sympathy of Bird, who can't even hit a free throw! She made the second to cheers from the KeyArena crowd. Man, maybe she ate the spiked cupcake instead of Taurasi.

BE AGGRESSIVE: The Storm is going stronger to the hoop and dominating on the boards for a 43-24 rebounding advantage to stretch their lead to 56-49. Griffith has gotten into the game offensively, scoring nine points in the quarter. Bird is still frozen, missing two more buckets for 10 whiffs total.

HALFTIME BOOGIE: The Storm invited dad and daughter ballroom dancing duos to perform during the break and it's sweet. They do this overseas and it always looked like fun on TV. Glad the Storm is trying something different and bringing the event stateside. But press row doesn't ever think we've seen ballroom dancing to Evanescence before.

MERCURY RISING: Taurasi found her stroke and has a game-high 17 points in the opening half to drag Phoenix within 36-35 after a spinning jumper on Bird's coverage. No other Phoenix player has cracked five points, however. The Storm has missed 30 attempts and is staying afloat on the backs of Cash (14) and Swoopes (10). The Storm is also using their rebounding advantage (29-17) to keep the Mercury from completely taking over.

FLARED TEMPERS: Griffith and Taurasi locked arms and got a little testy under the Phoenix hoop. Bird helped unhook the players. Things are chippy as ever and entertaining to watch. Except the shooting from Bird, who is 0 of 7 with three rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes.

SHOOTING LULL?: If it weren't for Bird (0-for-4) and Griffith (0-for-3), Seattle would be sizzling offensively while playing solid defense on Phoenix. Cash is leading with 12 points and Swoopes is 3-for-5 for eight points. Taurasi is back on the court and is 4 of 8 for 10 points. Still, Mercury is down 30-24 with 5:11 remaining in the half.

SPOTLIGHT ON DAD: In between quarters the Storm pointed out Bird's dad being in attendance along with Seahawk receiver Bobby Engram (and his daughter). Robisnon's father is also seated courtside with the owners. Engram is a friend of Cash's fiance, who also played football at Penn State.

NO LOVE II: OK, this is ridiculous. Pondexter was wronged on the latest call, even though you could hear a clap, it was a soft foul that could have slid. It didn't though, and she has three, taking a seat next to Taurasi. Her replacement, Kelly Mazzante just hit a pretty three-pointer to keep the score tied at 18 points apiece. So far the Storm has been to the line seven times compared to Phoenix's two.

NO LOVE: KeyArena is loving that Taurasi has picked up two quick fouls while defending Jackson. She's still sqwaking on the bench and has been heckled to "stop whining." On the last one, it looked like Taurasi was going to throw a puch at her close friend in frustration. But this answer the question for the WNBA -- no, there's no fix to keep "star" players on the court. Storm leads 12-10.

SWOOPES IS BACK: Swoopes said on Tuesday that she woke for the first time without any pain, proclaiming herself about 97 percent healthy after undergoing back surgery in October. She's rocking on the court tonight, shooting 2 of 3 to start for six points and two steals. Storm is tied 10 all with 4:09 remaining in the opening quarter.

BIRTHDAY BUCKET: This is the last of Taurasi's big day mention. She made her first bucket, a three-pointer, off a screen at the top of the key. She missed the second, so maybe she won't be on fire tonight. Storm is down 3-1. On defense, Taurasi is covering Jackson in their roving 2-3 zone.

MORE ON WNBA ADS: So, LJ's topic for the "Expect Great" ad is "tall girls can't shoot" and Bird's is something about girls being too emotional to play hoops. A Mercury spokesman said Taurasi and Pondexter's are about being in the zone and scoring, respectively. Filming didn't end until about 10 p.m. on Tuesday because Pondexter had to have her hair done and Phoenix flew in that day. The ads won't run until late in the season on through the upcoming NBA season to keep the league in people's mind. That's the smartest thing about the commercial.

Contrary to what Phoenix coach Corey Gaines reported after shootaround, not everyone is healthy for tonight. C Tangela Smith is a scratch to play due to swelling in her right knee. She said it's a precautionary measure and nothing to be alarmed about. Gaines said their trainer made the decision once the team arrived to KeyArena this evening.

Cupcakes are everywhere for Mercury F Diana Taurasi's birthday. Storm C Florina Pascalau was gobbling one piled with white frosting during pre-game and Mercury G Cappie Pondexter had one, too. Storm C Ashley Robinson and her father baked the treats for Taurasi, a former AAU teammate of Robinson.

But Pondexter told Taurasi that she wasn't feeling too good after eating the treat. "I think I'm going to throw up," she said. Taurasi responded, "that's not a good idea."

"It was good, but it's all the sugar. I was trying to burn it off. I've never done that before," Pondexter said when she took a break from pre-game sprints on the court. Her normal meal routine is eating fish or chicken by 2 p.m. taking an hour nap, waking to gospel and clearing her mind for the game.

I've seen two incidences of people pulling over to vomit on Interstate-5 this week, hopefully it wasn't preparation to cover it tonight. Anyway, here are the starting lineups:

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Yolanda Griffith
G Sheryl Swoopes
G Sue Bird

MERCURY
F Diana Taurasi
F Le'Coe Willingham
C Barbara Farris
G Cappie Pondexter
G Kelly Miller

Tonight's officials are Clarke Stevens, Denise Brooks-Clauser, and Maj Forsberg.

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June 11, 2008 12:02 PM

Checking in on Phoenix

Posted by Jayda Evans

Shootaround just wrapped for both teams with Phoenix and Seattle's camp reporting everyone healthy to play. "Unless something happens on the way out," said Mercury coach Corey Gaines.

He made the comment because of an accident at the lower southeast tunnel where the team bus normally enters. A machine crashed into the KeyArena roll-up door and word is it will take weeks to fix the problem. I imagine somewhere Sonics owner Clay Bennett is stewing at having to spend more money on the facility. Or maybe it's Force 10 Hoop's problem? Owners Anne Levinson and Ginny Gilder were at shootaround.

It's Mercury F Diana Tuarasi's birthday (26) and Storm F Sue Bird said the celebration is tonight. I bet it won't last too long since Seattle has to board a bus at 6 a.m. for a back-to-back set in San Antonio and Houston this weekend. It'll be Storm F Sheryl Swoopes' homecoming and she admitted to feeling "nervous" about the return.

Phoenix is entering tonight's matchup on consectutive wins against Minnesota and Los Angeles. The Mercury started the season at 0-4.

After shootaround, Gaines spoke about the latest with gambling NBA ref Tim Donaghy. Donaghy alleged that games were fixed and Gaines said that has long been the rumor. Gaines joked (with a tinge of truth) that he was a bench player and never got a call while playing in the league, but went on to say how hard it would be to really "fix" a game. It was a conversation he had with Sonics assistant Paul Westhead, the former Mercury coach, at dinner on Tuesday.

"If my head was on the chopping block I'd probably say anything, too," Gaines said. "A veteran player is going to get calls over a rookie, that's normal in any league. That's the way it rolls. He's saying something deeper, but could just be talking. I don't think anybody is ever happy with any officiating. Every league I've been around, it's always been the same."

Storm F Lauren Jackson has been super frustrated with officiating this season. During the Detroit win on Saturday, she carried the ball to the ref and screamed at him that a foul called while her arms were straight up as she defended a Cheryl Ford baseline drive was not a foul. I asked Jackson if she was concerned about getting a technical foul because of her passion in arguing her point.

"What's 150 dollars?" she scoffed.


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June 11, 2008 8:18 AM

Brazil continues to roll

Posted by Jayda Evans

SantosDrive.jpgBrazil defeated Spain today 71-68 for the Group C title in the FIBA Olympic Qualifier Tournament for women. The team, described as "flashy, yet controlled," used strong defense and a team-leading 18 points from former Storm forward Iziane Castro Marques (Atlanta) to advance. Storm forward Kelly Santos, who is pictured to the left, finished with 10 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.

Brazil plays Belarus in the quarterfinals on Friday. The country is trying to grab one of the final five berths to the Beijing Games.

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June 10, 2008 7:46 PM

Storm practice: Bird, Cash out

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Storm worked on facing Phoenix's zone defense in a late afternoon session. The team has had their practice times booted around because of the Sonics getting prepared for the NBA draft. Monday's session for the women didn't end until almost 9 p.m. But vet Yolanda Griffith said everyone was focused and it was productive.

PG Sue Bird and F Swin Cash did not participate in today's practice. Bird was out due to having an injection in her knees that is supposed to ease the onset of arthritis. "The best way to describe it is like putting oil on a rusty nail," she said. Cash is having problems with her lower back but everyone else is healthy enough to play.

Cash and F Sheryl Swoopes had a humorous talk while shooting free throws to end practice. The newcomers were complaining about the miserable weather, wondering where is the sun. Cash arrived from Miami and packed her South Beach best, clinging to a black leather jacket to keep her warm in Seattle.

"I came here and my clothes aren't matching," she said of trying to layer her wardrobe.

"I meant to tell you about that," said Swoopes of Cash not looking her usual stylish self.

"I even brought strappy sandals, if I wear those, my toes might fall off," Cash said.

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June 10, 2008 2:42 PM

WNBA commercial headed to Seattle

Posted by Jayda Evans

They're awful, but the league is making more of those "She wouldn't say that, would you?" commercials -- this time plugging Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Cappie Pondexter into the fold. The league's crew (along with some freelance staff) is at Storm practice now, setting things up. It'll be filmed on the training facility court and aired soon.

The only positive is the use of Pondexter. In case you missed it, she made an in-house commercial for Phoenix and is adorably funny. The baller definitely has personality that the WNBA should tap -- often.

But why in this format? Tell me if I'm off base, but if you're trying to appeal to the "male fan" (which I heard this ad is supposed to do) why point out the bad and try to spin it? I've always been told you don't tell men the negative of what you don't like because then they'll turn their focus to that. Instead, shove the positive in their face and let them make their own assessment.

I had lunch with my uncle this afternoon and he said once he saw Tina Thompson put lipstick on and go play, he was hooked. I'm against sexualizing the women to draw fans, too, but there has to be a happy medium. Like if it's natural, as it is with Thompson or Lisa Leslie, then go for it. Anything is better than what they're prepping to film.

The WNBA used Detroit F Cheryl Ford, Indiana F Tamika Catchings, and Los Angeles rookie Candace Parker in the original launch. Here's Parker's version:

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June 10, 2008 2:15 PM

Brazil wins opener

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm forward Kelly Santos and Iziane Castro Marques, a former Storm forward playing for Atlanta, checked in through their translator from Spain. The duo is trying to help Brazil qualify for the Beijing Games through the FIBA Olympic Qualifier Tournament for Women. Brazil killed in its opener today, defeating Fiji 125-45. Castro Marques led with 28 points while Santos added 15 in 20 minutes of play.

Castro Marques sends her love to Seattle. She said she misses the city and fans because everyone was so united and welcoming. Overall, she said she had a great experience playing for the Storm.

Brazil has a tough matchup against Spain on Wednesday to determine the winner of Group C. Yet, even if Brazil loses, they advance to the quarterfinals and are in the running for one of the five final Olympic berths.

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June 10, 2008 7:40 AM

We're back!

Posted by Jayda Evans

The blog experienced some technical difficulties, so I couldn't post the past few days. Did you miss me? Yeah, I know you did. Anyway, the lapse was horrible. Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer was ripe on Saturday and there was no outlet for his antics. It's probably best.

Well, Sue Bird won't be going to court. What? You hadn't heard?

In the Sonics trial, Judge Marsha Pechman tossed out KJR host Mitch Levy as one of the city's witnesses because of his late addition. That means the whole "harder Daddy harder" counter -- when Levy and Bird placed a bet on her assist ratio to get him to buy tickets or he got to spank her -- on Levy's character won't be brought up again. And thankfully not in court of all places.

Bird was unfazed, however, when it was brought to her attention that the bet was re-emerging. She still hasn't been back on the show. "At first it was mutual and now I just haven't," she said. But she's been on the station since.

The Storm PG and teammates are pro Sonics remaining in Seattle, but like their brethren players, don't know what they can do to help. "It would be a travesty if they leave," said Storm F Lauren Jackson.

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June 7, 2008 4:54 PM

TV Alert

Posted by Jayda Evans

Just an update regarding the Becky Hammon saga, the whole issue will be explored on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. (PST). The Russians named their pool of 24 players and Hammon, who is expected to ultimately play with the Olympic squad, is listed along with Americans Deanna Nolan (Detroit) and Kelly Miller (Phoenix). Former Storm F Natalia Vodopyanova is also listed and she's Russian.

Asked Team USA coach Anne Donovan about her implying that Hammon is a traitor for playing for the Russians during a teleconference on May 31 and Donovan is slightly tempered about the decision. Donovan called Hammon out on ABC during a halftime interview of the May 24 Seattle-San Antonio game, saying, "if you play in this country (USA), live in this country and grow up in the heartland and you put on a Russian uniform you are not a patriotic person in my mind." (FYI, a "traitor" is defined as someone who betrays one's country)

On May 31, Donovan elaborated by saying, "I have never called Becky Hammon a traitor. I questioned her patriotism, but I have never called her a traitor. You know my feelings on Becky Hammon -- everybody has to make their own decisions and live with those decisions. It's not my call to make. If that's something Becky feels good about, then more power to her. It's totally in Becky's court."

It seems this territory has been covered and Hammon herself said she's at peace with the decision, expecting this type of media build up. But it'll be interesting to see what ESPN dug up and splices together, especially since it's in direct competition of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on sister station ABC. I still have no problem with it. As one poster said, once the Games allowed pro athletes compete, the Games lost its innocents.

UPDATE: ESPN opted to air a piece on deceased broadcaster Jim McKay instead of the Hammon feature.

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June 6, 2008 4:16 PM

Storm practice: "The Movie"

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Storm practiced at KeyArena today, getting some work in on the zone defense they saw in stints on the road, losing to New York and Detroit in a back-to-back set. It was the homecoming of both PG Sue Bird (New York ) and Swin Cash, who played for the Shock the past six seasons. And both had mediocre games in their return.

Bird, who averaged 7.0 points on 31.1 percent shooting in two wins against the Liberty last summer (hitting a game-winner at Madison Square Garden), finished with 10 points, four assists, and three turnovers in the 77-63 loss. Cash had 10 points, missing a late three-pointer that could have made the game interesting, in her only return to Detroit this season. The Storm lost 77-67.

At practice, Cash said the Storm still needs an identity.

"It was kind of weird at first," said Cash of returning. "We need to cultivate an identity and have that every single night that we come out. We have offensive power, yes, on this team and that's going to get better as the season goes on. But I would like to see us become more of a solid defensive team every single night."

C Yolanda Griffith continued her plague with foul trouble on the road. She's successfully played with five fouls and still made big contributions twice this summer, but her being on the bench due to early fouls hurt on the road. Griffith is averaging 4.3 in 21.0 minutes.

"I think officials are really watching her," Storm coach Brian Agler said after practice. "She's been in the league for 12 years now. Other coaches complain about how she plays and they call the league offices and I don't think she gets a lot of the benefit of the doubt, in all honesty. At the same time, there's some things she can clean up to help herself. We'll talk about that."

Storm C Ashley Robinson did not participate in the entire practice due to a sore right Achilles. Storm rookie Kimberly Beck watched practiced due to an eye injury she began complaining about on the trip home Thursday. She had it examined on Friday and it's unknown whether it's contagious.

"Her eye was really bothering her," Agler said. "They think she has some kind of virus so they had to put some ointment in there and she was out of practice because of that."

Beck scored her first field gola as a pro, a second half three-pointer, against Detroit. Her first points were two made free throws in a win against Sacramento (May 20).

After all of the interviews were complete, I had to ask Bird about "The Movie," meaning "Sex and the City: The Movie" It actually ended up being a roundtable with Bird (SB), me (JE) and FSN announcer Cara Capuano (CC), who'll be doing the play-by-play on Saturday. We kicked Jen Muller out of the group because she hasn't seen the flick yet and didn't want to spoil it. So, let this be a spoiler alert for any blog readers, too.

SB: The critics killed it!
JE: I actually cried.
CC: I cried like three times.
SB: I was clapping (at funny parts).
JE: How bad did you crack up with Charlotte and the whole Mexico trip?
SB: I thought it was great. When I was reading the paper and it had the critics' response and the fans' response, the fans loved it. Everybody who saw it and who was a fan of the show all the way through, loved it. I was real disappointed with the critics, they don't know what they're talking about. People said it was too long...
JE: It could not be long enough.
CC: Seriously, it could not be long enough.
JE: Especially with the wedding dresses, did you like that part?
SB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Every storyline I thought was great. I laughed. I was clapping along with the rest of the audience. I went to go see it with Adia [Barnes, a former teammate turned radio color analyst] and during it I was like, "Oh, my God, we have to remember that line." Then two minutes later, "Oh, my God!" Of course you walk out and you can't remember anything. The Mexi-coma was probably my favorite moment and when Samantha was like "Oh, you made a joke."
JE: So, give me a Charlotte, Miranda, Carrie, and Samantha on the team.
SB: Whoever I pick as Samantha is going to make it sound like they're...
CC: [Promiscuous] [We all laughed, but note that Samantha may be free sexually, but is more so assertive, career-driven, strong, and loyal to her friends]
SB: Let me think, it might be too hard. "Carrie" would have to be Shyra [Ely] for the clothes and what not. "Charlotte", the goody-goody...
JE: You?
SB: Yeah, I'm sure people are going to pick that, little do they know. Katie Gearlds would be better. "Miranda?" That's a tough one.
JE: The realist.
CC: Mother, just throwing that out there.
SB: Sheryl [Swoopes]? I don't know. But there's like eight "Samanthas" on our team, I'll leave you with that.

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June 6, 2008 3:12 PM

Cash at the newstands

Posted by Jayda Evans

Another month is upon us, so it's time for another glossy spread on Storm forward Swin Cash at the newsstands. This one is from Sports Northwest. It talks about her wanting to be in the mix in Seattle, especially at jazz clubs and sushi bars. The mag also features a story on the four women of Force 10 Hoops, who bought the Storm, by sports radio personality Mike "Gasman" Gastineau.

On the Web, Storm PG Sue Bird is back exchanging blogs with former college teammate Diana Taurasi (Phoenix). The duo also won the EuroLeague and Russian League championships together this offseason. So don't they, and Tina Thompson (Houston) and Lauren Jackson (Seattle), one-up Candace Parker's spin on the Triple Crown? The vets are going for respective fourth titles in seeking the WNBA championship and Olympic gold in addition to their overseas accomplishments this offseason.

And this Triple Crown hype that we're now surrounding Parker with, that's just because the titles are in the same calendar year, right? Because Bird won a high school, college, WNBA, and Olympic title before Parker even knew the words to that rocky top song. Just saying.


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June 5, 2008 3:07 PM

More on Storm's TV deal

Posted by Jayda Evans

Not that anyone in Seattle wants to see a repeat of the stinker the Storm (5-3) had in Detroit (6-1) televised on Fox Sports Northwest again, but the station and the team are continuing negotiations for more broadcasts this summer.

FSN will carry Saturday's game against Detroit at KeyArena with Cara Capuano back as the play-by-play announcer and moonlighting color analyst Lavonda Wager, the Oregon State coach. Jen Mueller will handle the sideline reporting. But the Storm reports that negotiations are continuing for future dates with the flagship station.

The WNBA used to stipulate that teams carry a minimum of six games on TV. That rule has since been dropped and only the New York Liberty has all of its games on TV through the Madison Square Garden station.

In addition to national broadcasts, the Storm always had a minimum of three games televised locally. In 2006, there were three and in 2007 the team carried five. Only those deals were part of the Sonics' contract with FSN. Now that the Storm is an independent entity, operated by Force 10 Hoops, they have to finance and negotiate their own deals.

As for the Storm itself, they traveled home today and did not practice. (Yes, some would argue they should.) They'll be back on the court Friday to prepare for a rematch against the Shock.

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June 4, 2008 3:28 PM

Santos checks in

Posted by Jayda Evans

SantosPhoto.jpg
Storm F Kelly Santos has arrived in Spain to play for Brazil in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women. Santos is happy to be with her countrywomen, although she's groggy from the travel, according to a source close to her. Former Storm F Iziane Castro Marques, who was traded to Atlanta, is also with the team and pictured here with Santos (right) and C Graziane de Jesus Coelho (left). De Jesus Coelho and Santos were called up to replace injured C Erika de Souza.

Brazil is currently in Pinto, Spain and will play a pre-tournament game against China on Thursday. The actual tourney, where the final five slots for the Beijing Games will be decided, begins June 9. Santos, a two-time Olympian, like's her country's chances to advance, but said everyone still needs to learn how to play together.

The tournament ends June 15 and Santos expects to be back with the Storm on June 16, when Seattle hosts Connecticut at KeyArena.

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June 3, 2008 8:59 PM

FSN picks up two Storm games

Posted by Jayda Evans

Well, the Storm will be on TV twice locally. FSN announced tonight that it will broadcast the home-and-home games against Detroit on Wednesday and Saturday. The deal continues a relationship that began with the Storm being tacked on to Sonics contracts with the station. Here's the release:


FSN TO BROADCAST STORM GAMES THIS SEASON

Back-to-back games vs. Eastern Conference power Detroit begin tomorrow night


SEATTLE, Tuesday, June 3, 2008 -- The Seattle Storm and FSN today announced that the network will broadcast the two games against the Detroit Shock this week. The first game is against the Shock is tomorrow in Detroit at 4:30 pm PT, followed by a home game at KeyArena on Saturday, June 7 at 7 pm.

"We're proud to announce our first two FSN telecasts this season and we look forward to bringing Storm basketball to fans throughout the Seattle area," said Storm CEO Karen Bryant. "The FSN partnership gives us a chance to showcase our All-Star roster."

Seattle Storm on FSN (all times PT)

Wednesday, June 4 Seattle @ Detroit 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 7 Detroit @ Seattle 7:00 p.m.

In addition to the games broadcast on television locally by FSN Northwest, four of the Storm's games are nationally televised, including Sunday, August 31 against the Connecticut Sun on ESPN2 and Sunday, September 14 against the Los Angeles Sparks on ABC.

About FSN Northwest

FSN Northwest is the cable home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle SuperSonics, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Storm, Portland Beavers, Portland Timbers, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers and Gonzaga Bulldogs. The region reaches more than 3.4 million cable homes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. FSN Northwest is a member of the Liberty Sports Group, which also includes the regional sports networks FSN Pittsburgh and FSN Rocky Mountain. The three networks combined reach more than 8.5 million viewers across 17 states and own exclusive programming and distribution partnerships with more than 24 professional and collegiate teams. Liberty Sports Group is a division of Liberty Media Corporation, which owns interests in a broad range of electronic retailing, media, communications and entertainment businesses. For more information, please visit libertysportsgroup.com.

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June 3, 2008 4:56 PM

Liberty game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

In case you were wondering, we didn't travel for this two-game road trip. Budget. But you can watch the game through the league's broadband pass on your computer. Or if you have MSG, you can catch New York's feed.

The Storm is getting clobbered by the Liberty's zone defense 22-6 after the first quarter -- their worst of the season. Apparently former UCLA star Lisa Willis' family is in attendance and getting tons of air time.

A warning to anyone who wants to listen to the local braodcast while watching the MSG feed through the WNBA, they are a couple minutes apart, so the radio broadcast spoils the online version.

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June 3, 2008 10:05 AM

TV Alert

Posted by Jayda Evans

No, the Storm hasn't announced their 2008 TV deal, but word should come soon. Even employees of various TV stations are clueless as to what is going on behind closed doors, though. One employee at Kong 6/16 said they figured to be in the running since the Storm was first on their station back in 2000, but none of the top brass is tipping their hand. The employee did add that most at the station want the Storm because it would help fill out their programming on Channel 16.

But until that announcement is made, how about watching another Candace Parker matchup? The rookie has helped produce four consecutive road sellouts for Los Angeles and will debut in her native Chicago tonight. Playing for the Sky and an expected packed house is No. 2 overall pick Sylvia Fowles. You can catch the action on NBA-TV at 5p.m. (PST).

In talking to Parker's agent, Eric Goodwin, it seems the hype is getting a little annoying for the league's newest star. Her camp would like a little variety in how she's publicized and to wait for big-hit moments. Goodwin also commented that the players should support Parker more. I talked to Storm C Yolanda Griffith about the newest CP3 and she said Parker had to "go through the old G's first." And I'm sure everyone has read the ESPN magazine article where the vets commented about Parker and her first year in the league.
Detroit G Katie Smith added that she's "seen it before," responding sort of ho-hum to what Parker will be able to do off the bat on the court, yet noting that Parker is an incredible player.

Goodwin thinks if the players rally behind Parker, she can lift them all up to the financial and visual popularity every pro athlete seeks. I slightly agree, although I like rookies to earn that respect. Goodwin is known as a masterful marketer of players, but all of the old G's can tell you how hard it is to continually take a backseat to younger stars and not see the love spread around.

"I think there are a lot of players in this league deserving of million-dollar contracts that where here first," said Storm F Shery Swoopes.

Anyway, Chicago fans take a look around the crowd for business suits. Since the area is base for several major corporations like Pepsi, McDonald's, OfficeMax, Allstate, Kraft Foods, and Motorola, don't be surprised to see representatives floating around, enjoying the game and thinking about signing Parker to an endorsement deal. Parker has already racked in a reported $4 million from Adidas and Gatorade.

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June 2, 2008 12:35 PM

Augustus and Douglas named WNBA players of the week

Posted by Jayda Evans

How about those Minnesota Lynx? Just in case you've been in a Storm cloud, the Lynx have shed the not-so-nice nickname of Missing Lynx (get it?) to be the WNBA's sole undefeated team at 4-0. The team continues to ride the play of guard Seimone Augustus and now rookie guard Candice Wiggins, who should have found her way to a Storm uniform.

Anyway, Augustus averaged 22 points and 6.3 rebounds in her team's opening wins, including a stunner against the defending champion Phoenix. The Mercury was 3-1 against the Lynx last season. The POW award for Augustus just caps a fun week for her. She was named to Olympic squad on Saturday, and coach Anne Donovan said "everything begins and ends" with Augustus.

Douglas wasn't named, and like Storm forward Swin Cash, Douglas seems to be using every game to make her case. She's second in league scoring (21.4) and makes you fear what Indiana will do when Tamika Catchings joins the team. Yeah, the Fever is a respectable 3-2 without Catchings. It could barely make a layup, let alone hang in the Eastern Conference without Catch in the past.

One note about the selections, Storm forward Lauren Jackson was nominated instead of Cash this week. Jackson was huge in Seattle's win against San Antonio, scoring 28 points. And she did have a game-high 13 boards in the win against Houston, pulling down the biggest of them all with 10.8 seconds remaining, but where's the love for Cash? She's been the Storm's constant during the franchise-best 5-1 start while Jackson is just starting to emerge into her stellar MVP self. Yet, it's Jackson who has recieved the past two nominations for the Storm.

Well, here's the release from the league:


INDIANA'S KATIE DOUGLAS AND MINNESOTA'S SEIMONE AUGUSTUS
NAMED WNBA EASTERN AND WESTERN CONFERENCE
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK


NEW YORK, June 2, 2008 -- Katie Douglas of the Indiana Fever and Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx were named the WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, May 26 through Sunday, June 1.

Douglas earns her third career Player of the Week award -- her first as a member of the Fever -- after averaging 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists. After being traded from the Connecticut in the offseason in exchange for Tamika Whitmore, Douglas scored 23 points and pulled in 6 rebounds in the Fever's 75-46 win over the Sun on May 27. Against Los Angeles on May 29, she poured in a game-high 25 points to cap a stretch of four games in which she scored 20 or more points, becoming the second player in franchise history to accomplish the feat (Tamika Catchings, three times). In Indiana's three games, Douglas led the team in assists twice, handing out five against both Connecticut and Detroit.

Douglas propelled the Fever to 2-1 record on the week, including a double-overtime thriller over previously-undefeated Los Angeles on May 29. In her first season with Indiana, Douglas has anchored a Fever squad that has played without Catchings in the early going. She currently ranks second in the WNBA in scoring for the season with 21.4 points per game, trailing only Phoenix's Cappie Pondexter (26.8 ppg).

Augustus receives the second Player of the Week award in her career after averaging 22.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting 53.3 percent from the floor (24-for-48), 50.0 percent of her three-pointers and 93.8 percent from the foul line.

She highlighted her week with a 25-point, 9-rebound performance while playing 42 minutes in Minnesota's 98-92 overtime win at Houston on May 27. Her nine rebounds against both Houston and Chicago (May 29) tied her previous career-high mark. She was also Minnesota's leading scorer in each of the team's three games in the past week.

A two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year, Augustus rallied the Lynx from a 14-point deficit against Houston and sunk the game-tying basket with 25.9 seconds remaining in regulation. To date, she ranks fifth in the WNBA in scoring and among the top 25 in rebounding as a guard. Even more impressive, she's led the Lynx to a franchise-best 4-0 start and a place atop the Western Conference standings. Minnesota is also the only remaining unbeaten team in the WNBA.

Other candidates for WNBA Players of the Week were Chicago's Sylvia Fowles, Connecticut's Lindsey Whalen, Los Angeles' Candace Parker, Phoenix's Cappie Pondexter, Sacramento's Laura Harper, Seattle's Lauren Jackson and Washington's Monique Currie.

About the WNBA
Comprised of 14 teams and entering its 12th season, the WNBA is the longest-running and most successful women's professional team sports league in America. The 2008 season tips off May 17 with ESPN2 again providing appointment viewing in the form of its "WNBA Tuesdays" telecasts. Combined coverage on ABC and ESPN2 will include 21 national telecasts, while NBA TV, the league's 24-hour television network, will offer 70 regular-season contests.

The WNBA is deeply committed to WNBA CARES programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on promoting health and fitness, breast health awareness, reading and youth basketball programs. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

2008 WNBA PLAYER OF THE WEEK WINNERS

Week Ending West Player Team / East Player Team
5/25/08 Sophia Young San Antonio Silver Stars / Lindsay Whalen Connecticut Sun
6/1/08 Seimone Augustus Minnesota Lynx / Katie Douglas Indiana Fever

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June 1, 2008 5:40 PM

Comets game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM WINS: Time ran out on Houston and the Storm won 64-63 in a slugfest. Seattle is continuing its best start in franchise history at 5-1. They'll travel to New York on Monday for a back-to-back against the Liberty and Cash's former Detroit Shock.

SO COOL: The Storm stayed calm and produced the coolest play I've seen from them in Griffith blocking a shot from Dixon and Jackson grabbing the rebound. She zipped it ahead to Bird, who made the fast break layin to put the Storm back ahead 64-63 with 6.8 seconds remaining. The Storm got another defensive stop with it forced C Misti Williams into a bad shot, but an official blew their whistle, stopping the clock with 3.4 seconds remaining. The crowd is chanting "The Game Is Over!" but the officials are still talking. The clock will be reset to .8 seconds and it's Storm ball.

BURNED: Well, all the good Cash did to get the Storm back in the game may have just dissolved in a a made jumper by Tamecka Dixon over Cash with 53.8 seconds remaining. The bucket put the Comets ahead 63-62.

CASHING IN: Cash is back on a mini roll in an ugly game. She made two three-pointers, a turnaround jumper and had a dish to G Tanisha Wright to help pull the Storm ahead 57-55 with 4:40 remaining in the game. It's a definite foul-fest, Seattle has gone to the line 34 times while Houston has attempted 22 free throws and committed 26 personal fouls.

GRIFFITH GETS FOURTH: Houston is still giving Seattle trouble even without Swoopes in the lineup. Griffith just collected her fourth foul and isn't producing much. She has three points, two boards, and four fouls. Agler hasn't called anyone to the score's table to check-in for Griffith.

TIE GAME: Bird just tied the game at 32 points apiece entering the half. Before the game, Cash was talking about how not being announced among the first nine Olympic players and not being mentioned during television broadcasts will motivate her to play harder and it appears it's just now starting to click. Cash is aggressively snatching rebounds from the Comets and Bird is providing the offense, leading the team with 14.

CHATTY GOODWIN: WNBA/NBA agent Eric Goodwin, who represents Tina Thompson and Candace Parker, is sitting on press row. He's the reason why there's a lull in notes during the game. We're talking about the trouble in marketing women to advertisers and the game in general. It's good stuff, so I hope you'll forgive me for one game.

FOUL TROUBLE: Griffith just left the game due to racking up three fouls. This is the trouble Seattle feared it would be in. Reserve Katie Gearlds has tried to spark the team with a three-pointer, but the Storm can't keep the offensive flow going. Seattle is shooting 30 percent while Houston is clicking and has built a 21-16 lead with 5:45 remaining in the first half.

SWOOPES GETS RECORD: Swoopes collected her 600th steal with 8:33 remaining in the opening quarter. She swiped the ball from Snow, but then Swoopes turned the ball over.

ATTENDANCE LOWS: A poster wondered recently why the new ownership wasn't drawing more fans to KeyArena, especially with the winning record and I have to wonder the same today. The Mariners have already lost 7-5 and the Storm's 6 p.m. start works for the kids. But I'm guessing there's less people here than on Friday, which was announced as 6,800. Or the crowd could be smart. The first quarter just concluded and it was brutal. Seattle is down 12-9. Both teams are shooting below 30 percent.

Tonight's game will be real interesting. True, Houston is winless and the Storm is rocking. But that rocking Storm is also underhanded against a very physical Comets squad that is averaging 22.3 free throw attempts in their past three games. The Storm is averaging 17.0 during the same timeframe and is lacking depth inside since F Kelly Santos decided to leave on Saturday to join her Brazilian national team in Madrid. Brazil is entered in a last-ditch effort tournament to qualify for the Beijing Games.

A source close to Santos said the decision was very difficult because reaching the WNBA is a "once in a lifetime chance" and she didn't want to ruin her opportunity to play in the "best league in the world." But Santos was needed by her country due to the injury to C Erika de Souza. Santos will return from the FIBA tournament on June 16.

Romanian Florina Pascalau will not be activated because the final paperwork for her visa hasn't been processed. The Storm has thought about signing former Washington standout Kristen O'Neill, but coach Brian Agler, who's also the team's director of player personnel, didn't want to make a rushed decision. He was told of Santos' decision on Thursday.

Funny moment before tip-off (aside from Houston coach Karleen Thompson running darting away from me after my line of Sheryl Swoopes questioning, more on that later this month), PG Sue Bird was recognized for being selected to the Olympic team at halfcourt. She was supposed to stand with Rick DuPree, director of community relations, and hold her No. 6 Olympic jersey. Bird did so for about 20 seconds, flinging the jersey back to DuPree and rejoining teammates for warm-up drills. Only the public address announcer hadn't reached the congratulations part where the camera is cued for a close-up before she left center court. When it happened, DuPree was there standing by himself with the jersey.

One thing to look for tonight is Swoopes needs just one steal to reach 600 in her career. She would be the first WNBA player to reach the mark.

Here are tonight's starters

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Yolanda Griffith
G Sheryl Swoopes
G Sue Bird

INACTIVE: Florina Pascalau

COMETS
F Erica White
F Tina Thompson
C Michelle Snow
G Tamecka Dixon
G Hamchetou Maiga-Ba

INACTIVE: Mwadi Mabika and Marcedes Walker

Tonight's officials are Cameron Inovye, Scott Twardoski, and Jeff Smith

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June 1, 2008 1:45 AM

Santos leaves Storm

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm F Kelly Santos is expected to leave the team to join her Brazilian national team in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women in Madrid. Iziane Castro Marques (Atlanta) will also leave the WNBA to join Brazil, but Dream teammate, C Erika de Souza, will not compete due to a stress fracture. The competition begins June 9 and Santos is not expected to return to the Storm until June 16.

Five spots for the August Games remain. If Brazil qualifies, the Storm will once again have three player representatives in the Games in Santos, PG Sue Bird, and F Lauren Jackson (Australia). In 2004, the team had Jackson, Bird, and Castro Marques. Seattle could have four, if F Swin Cash is given a berth.

Spoke to F Sheryl Swoopes at practice on Saturday and she stated she has no intentions of representing America, but if offered a fourth invite, she would compete for her country. Swoopes isn't anticipating that call, however, read more here.

Storm coach Brian Agler thinks Cash should be on the team. Some believe the decision is based on whether Indiana F Tamika Catchings can rehabilitate from major right Achilles tendon surgery quick enough. Swoopes said Team USA needs Cash and Catchings -- healthy -- in order to win gold because of their defense.

"She's [Swin] sort of our stopper out there on the perimeter," said Agler of Cash, who is averaging 15.6 points on the offensive end. "I know Swin is in the running for that [last three spots] and she's played exceptionally well here. If people are evaluating on how she's playing, I think she's showing the things that she can do on both ends of the basketball floor. And she can play the 2, 3, or 4. That's very valuable. Her game is speaking for itself right now."

According to the Olympic selection committee, Catchings is expected to make her Fever debut this month. Coach Lin Dunn said during training camp that the hardest thing is slowing Catchings down to make sure she's 100 percent because Catchings is itching to return. In the meantime, all we're seeing of her are those awful league commercials.

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