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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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July 31, 2008 11:37 AM

Olympic reading

Posted by Jayda Evans

Hopefully you spotted our piece in The Seattle Times today. And here are a few other stories to get you going for the Olympic Games.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrapped up the entire four-days Team USA spent in the area practicing and having their WNBA peers/teammates promote the league. Sports Illustrated writer Kelli Anderson and I commented at the "Inspiring Women" luncheon that it's the first time the WNBA has had anything major on the West Coast, hosting one All-Star game in Phoenix, and it was nice to see the league in our territory. I was surprised fans didn't sneak to Maples Pavilion to see the squad practice and hound for autographs, but the attendance at the various events showed plenty of interest.

There's been scattered talk of an expansion team in the Bay Area, but the WNBA should really chill on adding more teams. Franchises like Chicago and Atlanta are still trying to take root and there's only so much Candace Parker can do for marketing the league.

Anyway, since there weren't many articles on broadcaster Robin Roberts being the 2008 recipient of the "Inspiring Women" award, I'll state that the event was posh. It was held at the Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco and was a quick 90-minute luncheon -- not counting post-schmoozing.

Storm co-owner Anne Levinson and Los Angeles co-owner Kathy Goodman were in attendance, along with Washington owner Shelia Johnson and Sky owner Michael Alter. Storm CEO Karen Bryant also attended, chatting up Connecticut GM Chris Sienko.

Goodman was funny about the Detroit-Los Angeles fight. She was glad she wasn't seated courtside with co-owner Carla Christofferson because she didn't want to have to hold Christofferson back. "I already had to tell her to get off the seat!"

A video of Roberts' life, including shots of her as a pigtailed little girl, was shown before she took the stage looking stunning. She started to tear-up at the end of her speech when she told the crowd of about 300 people that, "You inspire me to continue to live and I thank you so much for that." (Roberts was diagnosed with cancer last year)

WNBA president Donna Orender, wanting to make the afternoon light and not miss a moment to pitch to a potential advertiser, walked on the stage patting her eyes as she said, "Now I need Kleenex as a sponsor."

Four-time Olympian Lisa Leslie then introduced her squad. They posed for photos with Roberts and took off for practice.

So, here are the stories as Team USA is just beginning their flight to China:

Team USA Finally together

Team USA assistant coach Gail Goestenkors ready to coach

Lawson loves wearing Team USA colors

Catching up with Taurasi

Defense is key to success

Secret out about Opening Ceremonies

Officials will make sure women are women

Hammon snubbed by Team USA

Q&A with Bird

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July 30, 2008 5:24 PM

Live from Olympic training camp: Day 3

Posted by Jayda Evans

RED, WHITE, AND BLUE COLLAR: Donovan and her staff should work with the league's marketers. A couple of weeks ago the Team USA folks created the "Red, White, and Blue Collar" slogan that they are trying to get the players to adopt, emphasizing defense. It was made into a T-shirt by Nike and given to the players on Tuesday. Goestenkors wore it today. Basically it says "Red, White and" on the front with "Blue Collar" on the back.

THAT'S ALL: Parker made two free throws to end practice. The team is thanking the men for practicing with them this week and Donovan is complimenting the player's energy and effort, telling them for the first time that they won't practice on Thursday. Next up? China. But I still have more for the blog until the Games, so please continue to check back.

MEN IN THE MIX: The offense doesn't look as crisp today as the male practice players are blocking shots and picking off passes. Baskets also aren't falling for Team USA. Well, until Smith hit that three-pointer.

COACHES HUDDLE: Tara VanDerveer and Nell Fortner, the 1996 and 2000 Olympic coaches, respectively, are chatting with Stanford alum Jennifer Azzi on the sideline.

SWITCH: The teams have switched ends, Bird's group is now working with Thibault on zone defense.

WORKING SETS: After running through some offensive sets without opposing players, the lineup of Bird, Pondexter, Taurasi, Thompson, and Leslie ran through the play with the men as Donovan watched at half-court. On the other end, assistant coach Mike Thibault is running through plays with the rest of the team against the men.

LOOKING FOR SCREENS: Assistant coach Gail Goestenkors stopped play and gathered the post players at half-court with Donovan, expressing their displeasure with the lack of screens.

FINAL DAY: Since Team USA leaves at 10 on Thursday morning to begin their trek to Haining, China for the Diamond Ball Tournament, they cancelled practice on Thursday. Donovan said she likes the way the sessions are going and the real gelling will happen on the court against an actual opponent. It's scary to think of a Abby Wambauch situation happening with the women, but the tourney is going to be a good prep for the Olympics.

Media has been allowed in the facility and Olympic assistant coach Dawn Staley is working with head coach Anne Donovan in explaining a new game the team is going to play to work on getting stops. The rules are a little complicated, so I'll save the details.

The lineups are a little different going into the second hour of practice with PG Sue Bird playing the point with Seimone Augustus, Tamika Catchings, Sylvia Fowles, and Lisa Leslie on her "white" squad. The "red" team is Kara Lawson up top with Kara Lawson, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Tina Thompson, and Diana Taurasi.

Right now, Candace Parker (red) and Cappie Pondexter (white) are waiting to sub in.

It's interesting to note that Staley believes Pondexter will take the least amount of time to adjust to the point guard role in international play. We talked about this on Tuesday for a story I' working on about Bird that should run in Thursday's paper.

"Cappie is a risk-taker," Staley said. "She's not afraid to mix it up, compete and make mistakes. So she's going to learn a lot quicker because she mixes it up and tries to do a whole lot of things. You can tell her what to do and what not to do where the other ones (Bird and Lawson) are more, 'let me be observant, let me see where I fit in.'"

In the Lawson versus Connecticut guard Lindsay Whalen debate, USA Basketball president Val Ackerman said Lawson worked her way onto the team with her national team play and with Sacramento. Staley, the departing point guard the past three gold-medal runs, is happy for Lawson.

"Kara is in the same position that Sue was four years ago," Staley said. "She's new and has some reservations about who she's playing with and leading. It's natural for her to go through that and it's my job and Sue's job to help her through that. But she's a great complement to our team."

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July 30, 2008 9:25 AM

Jackson injures ankle

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm forward Lauren Jackson said she tweaked her right ankle in shootaround before her national team was set to play Brazil today. The Australians won, but the concern is Jackson's health heading into the Beijing Games. The three-time Olympian said she'll be healthy and it's just an "overuse" injury.

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July 30, 2008 8:15 AM

Cash update and other notes from Olympic training camp

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm forward Swin Cash will be part of the Olympics, although not as a player, as she had hoped. She'll join five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards in the NBC studio in New York to broadcast non-Team USA basketball games.

"It's kind of like watching at home in your living room, only I have to remember I'm not at home watching in my living room," Edwards joked.

Cash's duties means her lower back injury will get more rest, but she won't be part of the Storm's practices during the WNBA hiatus. The women's basketball portion runs Aug. 9-23. Seattle resumes WNBA play Aug. 28 at KeyArena against Houston.

But the opportunity is one Cash, 28, couldn't pass up. She was part of ESPN's in-studio NBA coverage and names ABC News anchor Robin Roberts, today's recipient of the 2008 Inspiring Woman award, as a role model.

"It was awesome for me to be in college and have her in our backyard at ESPN," said Cash of attending Connecticut while Roberts was an anchor on SportsCenter, among other programs with the network. "I was like a little kid in the candy store, always asking her questions and being a sponge. She would hold her own with all these guys and I would be like, 'Wow!' When she made the transition to Good Morning America, I knew anything was possible. She's been the biggest influence."

WINE AND WRISTS: Went to the WNBA's wine-tasting event at Cellar 360 in San Francisco on Tuesday evening and New York forward Ashley Battle easily won as best pitchwoman for the Beringer wines. Battle, who played two games for the Storm in 2005 before being cut by former coach Anne Donovan, played in Spain, where she told me they drink wine for breakfast. "Yes, breakfast. Or beer," she said. Her self-proclaimed love of wine helped her dive into the intricacies of the Chardonnay where the grapes are grown in Napa Valley. Even had me do the "Scope" taste, where you swish around the wine in your mouth to collect all the flavors.

Storm forward Shyra Ely was also in attendance, but isn't into wine, so she didn't do much talking about the product. I did learn that she'll "never be killed by a bear because I'll never be outside that long." I was trying to talk her into camping in Washington's gorgeous outdoors. "It'll never happen," she said.

Other players helping to pitch the wine to invited guests were Washington center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Connecticut guard Lindsay Whalen, Houston center Michelle Snow, Sacramento coach Jenny Boucek and Sacramento forward Nicole Powell.

Powell was an expert. She swiveled her wrist around (without spilling the wine) to break up the aroma and when I commented about her smooth technique, she quickly quipped, "I'm a shooter, it's all in the wrists."

The two-hour event wrapped a long day for the players and staff. It started with a basketball clinic with about 70 kids in the morning, the opening of a Boys & Girls club in the afternoon, and the wine in the evening. "I'm wiped out," Ely said before boarding the charter limo bus back to the hotel. She'll be at the luncheon today and then head to Indianapolis on Thursday, returning for Storm practice on Aug. 9.

GOLDEN SHOES: Houston forward Tina Thompson went digging in her garage for shoes and came up with a gold pair of CB34s, Charles Barkley's collector Nikes. She's been wearing them to the Olympic training camp, appropriate because America is trying to bring home its fourth consecutive gold medal in women's basketball. You can read more about Thompson's thoughts heading into the Games here.

SANTOS DEPARTS: Storm forward Kelly Santos' plans changed and she left Seattle today to meet her Brazilian team in Haining, China for the Diamond Ball tournament. The national team is actually in Australia for one more tuneup game against the Opals today. It would have been a wild travel schedule full of too many time changes, that's why Santos isn't in Australia as she earlier thought she'd be. She's joined by Atlanta center Erika Desouza on the flight. Desouza fractured her lower right leg, but returned to play and should compete in the Games.

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July 29, 2008 3:49 PM

Mailbag: Aussie feedback

Posted by Jayda Evans

Poster Ars asked if there was any word from Storm star Lauren Jackson following the team's impressive 3-2 finish to the pre-Olympic part of the WNBA season without the Australian in the lineup. Jackson left the states on July 17 to train with her national team.

Well, PG Sue Bird, who's Jackson's closest friend on the team, received plenty of text-messages from the Aussie. Most were simple, telling Bird to tell the team "Congrats" for winning. But the last one on Sunday was a little more detailed.

"I'm a legend!" said Bird of what Jackson text'd her after the Sacramento win. Bird scored a season-high 24 points in the game, hitting six free throws down the stretch to secure the victory. "Write that down."

Only there's one catch to Jackson's proclamation.

"She calls everybody a legend," Bird said. (True, I've been called that before by Jackson) "So, I don't take it as some kind of award."

Jackson and Phoenix forward Penny Taylor were in a Aussie "boot camp," doing team building and training. The grueling workout caused Jackson to complain to Bird about her body being sore, but she looked forward to reuniting in China.

Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi also heard from Jackson and communicated with Taylor via e-mail. The Aussies defeated Brazil 99-62 in a tune-up game in Wollongong, Australia. The teams will play again on Wednesday, then travel to Haining, China for the 2008 DIamond Ball Tournament from Aug. 2-5. Six teams -- Russia, Latvia, China, Mali, Team USA, and the Opals -- are part of the Olympic tune-up field.

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July 29, 2008 11:01 AM

Live from Olympic training camp: Day 2

Posted by Jayda Evans

STREAK OVER!: Interviewed Donovan after the session and actually got a direct smile my way following a question I asked. So, I'm happy to report that whatever ban I did have appears to be over. I'll have that feature on her as the Games approach.

NO JUICE: The computer's battery fizzed out quick today, so I didn't get a chance to wrap up practice. To finish off Day 2 of practice, I must say, again, that I love Fowles' play and what she brings to the Olympic team. Leslie is the all-time leading scorer for Team USA and she should be able to go nuts in Beijing, if the team can gel quickly and Fowles can continue to play like she has in training camp. Thibault wasn't happy about turnovers in the final scrimmages and the team worked heavily on defense today. The session ended with an around-the-horn shooting drill with posts facing off with the guards. The guards won, but the posts won one three-point part, hitting 10 first. That prompted Brown to comment how she loves watching a 6-foot-5 player hit a three. Yep, times have changed in the women's game. Anyway, since the posts lost, the guards made them do sit-ups. Bird busted into Kanye West's rap from "The New Workout Plan," singing "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and get them sit ups right and tuck your tummy tight and do your crunches like this." Everyone laughed, especially Leslie, who Bird was standing over as she rapped.

FIVE POSSESSIONS: Bird is at the point and the team is doing a drill of five possessions against the men. Bird's team is Thompson, Taurasi, Leslie, and Parker.

ANOTHER BLOCK: Man, here's hoping Fowles can continue to block shots the way she is in practice. The one just now on a male practice player led to a Pondexter fast break layin. Nice.

FULL-COURT SCRIMMAGE: The men are back on the court and the women are playing against them, practicing last-second situations. Pondexter is running the point with a team of Lawson, Milton-Jones, Catchings, and Augustus. Players are rotating in and out, though, so lineups and positions are changing quickly. It's the type of team Donovan likes -- plenty of versatility.

MAILBAG: A new poster (Welcome Storm39) asked about TV coverage while playing in the Games and USA Basketball released that the matchups will air live on NBC networks. Read more here.

RUNNING AND FREE THROWS: USA Basketball president Val Ackerman said on Monday that one of the biggest advantages to the women's team is that they all are in great playing shape. To keep it that way, Donovan has the players running sprints (although it looks like jogging) in between shooting free throws. There's no altitude problem in China, but the air quality is a major concern. Renee Brown, vice president of senior women, said she just returned from China, however, and expects the team to be fine.

Media is in and Team USA is playing four-on-four against each other. Kara Lawson is running the point for a "white" squad that includes Sylvia Folwes, DeLisha Milton-Jones, and Diana Taurasi. They were playing against a "red" squad that included Tamika Catchings, Lisa Leslie, Sue Bird, and Katie Smith. Cappie Pondexter, Candace Parker, Seimone Augustus, and Tina Thompson are on the "green" team.

Things are a lot more spirited today. Connecticut coach Mike Thibault stopped play at one point and got after the team for not harping at each other for an uncontested layin. Olympic coach Anne Donovan is talking about discipline.

Watching in the stands is a group of older conference goers from campus. And Phoenix GM Ann Meyers is along the sideline, she'll be broadcasting again for the Games. There is also a set of three officials, none that I really recognize from the WNBA, that are watching the scrimmage and making spot calls.

One side note, while the women are being carted around in a chartered bus, I heard the men were escorted in suburban limos and the select team that practiced against them rode a bus. The men were together a little longer in Las Vegas, but still, can a woman get some equal treatment?

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July 28, 2008 8:28 PM

Positive to WNBA melee

Posted by Jayda Evans

Not many liked the length of suspensions and maybe others didn't like the fact that the Detroit-Los Angeles fight last Tuesday happened at all. But after about 300,000 views on YouTube.com, you've gotta admit there were some humorous moments in the peusdo brawl.

And those moments drew Team USA closer more quickly than expected.

"We talked about it even before we got on the bus," said Storm guard Sue Bird. Three Sparks players - Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton-Jones, and Candace Parker - were suspended one game for throwing punches in the melee and are part of Team USA. Detroit guard Katie Smith stayed out of the fray, but was on the court at the time.

"We joked about the fight, moreso making fun of them," Bird continued. "How Katie was the peacemaker, and somebody said when Lisa fell, it looked like she was a calf coming out of its womb. And how basically [assistant coach] Rick [Mahorn] was like, 'Did somebody hit me?' after DeLisha [threw her punch in his back]. It was lighthearted and funny. I mean, it's a serious matter, but those type of moments generate the most conversation."

Smith, the only representative from her team, took it all in stride.

"L.A. was telling their side of the story and I tried to keep shut," Smith said. "I've got my opinions about it, but I'll keep those to myself. I was proud of my teammates, though, because we didn't come in swinging. We came in taking our people away. I was proud of our group for making sure nothing else happened and no one else got involved.

"No one wants to lose their money and no one wants to get suspended, so there was no need for me to go in there and start doing anything. I was just trying to keep people back for the most part."

There's no bad blood about the fight. Bird described the ride to practice as everything falling into place as if no one ever left each other. All of the players have pretty much played together at one point or another, aside from Leslie and Phoenix guard Cappie Pondexter, a first-time Olympian.

"We all like each other," Taurasi said. "It's one thing to go on a team where everybody hates each other and you go, 'I gotta go with these people.' But we all like each other. We've played with and against each other for the last 8 or 10 years, so we're very familiar with each other, which is a nice feeling."

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July 28, 2008 6:25 PM

Live from Olympic training camp

Posted by Jayda Evans

THANKS FELLAS: Smith made two free throws and that's a wrap for day one of practice. The team did the LA Sparks clap thing to close and now it's interviews. Donovan said it was a "very good practice."

CP4: Pondexter, wearing the No. 4 jersey, is running the point now. Parker, by the way, is CP15 in international play.

SLEEP MUCH?: I don't cover Lawson during practice often, so maybe she often has her mouth agape, but I swear the woman has yawned three times since we've been let in the doors. Understandable since most of the players played on Sunday and traveled to San Francisco this morning. Lawson had a regrettable game in a loss to the Storm, going 3-for-12 from the field for eight points, missing all six of her three-point attempts.

SIX PLAYER ROTATION: Parker is now on the floor with Bird, Leslie, Smith, and Taurasi. Thompson is subbing out with the posts. The others are running the same offensive set against the men at the other end of the court.

BACK TO DRILLS: Donovan is walking the team through sets now with Bird running a lineup of Smith, Thompson, Leslie, and Taurasi. Starting lineup in Bejing? Could be.

BLOCK THAT: That portion of practice is over with the "white" team running for scoring the least points. But the scrimmage ended with a bang as Fowles blocked Leslie's shot attempt at the top of the key. Team USA will definitely need that in China.

NICE DISH: Catchings is known for her defense and shooting touch, but she's had a couple of nice feeds to Taurasi for layins, even moving Donovan to give her props. Health is still a concern with her and Fowles, who was just popped in the eye and is wearing a black brace on her left knee. Play has stopped to tend to her. And now a male practice player replaced her. UPDATE: It was Smith that popped Fowles in the eye, prompting Taurasi to say that she should be suspended. Here's a link to the tidbit.

THE OTHER VANDERVEER: Former Storm assistant Heidi VanDerveer, Tara's sister, found her way to the Olympic roster. She's going to be the video coordinator for Team USA. Heidi VanDerveer, who was doing some scouting for WNBA teams this season, is head coach at Occidental College.

SCRIMAGE TIME: The team has split into groups for four-on-four scrimmaging, not permitting dribbling once the ball crosses half-court. It's sort of like how the game used to be played back in the day. Bird is lined up with Seimone Augustus, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Sylvia Fowles. The "white" team is Candace Parker, Katie Smith, Cappie Pondexter, and Tina Thompson while "red" is Kara Lawson, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, and Lisa Leslie.

Media has been allowed into Maples Pavilion to watch the final portion of Team USA's first practice as a group. Storm PG Sue Bird is in her red No. 6 jersey and running drills against a male practice squad. Yep, the national team uses the men, too, to train.

Since Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer is permitting the team to use the facility, her campers got to see the entire session. Her players are also watching along with legends Teresa Edwards and Jennifer Azzi. USA Basketball president Val Ackerman, the WNBA's inaugural president, is also in attendance.

Team USA started with a meeting then traveled to practice. It's a busy week, but they aren't the only ones hustling around town. Sacramento coach Jenny Boucek is leading a basketball clinic at the EASports headquarters in Redwood on Tuesday while Minnesota guard Candice Wiggins, Connecticut guard Lindsay Whalen, Washington center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, New York guard Ashley Battle, and Sacramento forward Nicole Powell will host a reading event at a Boys & Girls club in San Francisco and be at wine tasting event that evening. Some, like Powell and supposedly Houston center Michelle Snow, will also help Boucek with the clinic.

The team just concluded three-on-three drills and is shooting free throws. Olympic coach Anne Donovan, the Storm's former coach, just huddled the group and said, "I love how you're learning to play with each other. That's what these next 10 days are about -- not the sets, learning to play with each other."

Bird and Diana Taurasi are shooting together, wrapping up first with the free throws.


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July 27, 2008 5:03 PM

Monarchs game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM WINS: Bird made six of the Storm's final eight made FTs to secure the 77-71 win. Bird's big message was "I do not care, we won." Seattle, which finished 3-2 without Jackson, takes the season series against Sacramento at 3-0 with one game remaining on Sept. 9 in Sacramento. Seattle is an impressive 13-1 at home. Next up is the Olympic break where Agler, who turns 50 on Saturday, said he's returning to Ohio to be with his family. Most of the players said they are just going to "chill." Enjoy the Games!

GOODBYE POWELL: She was personally dragging Sacramento back in the game, scoring five consecutive points. But Powell just fouled out with a penalty against Bird, who made the ensuing two FTs. Bird has made four consecutive FTs to make the score 73-66 with 1:21 remaining. Looks like Seattle will remain the fiercest team at home, having only lost once to Connecticut in June.

BIRD PUSHING: Powell's three-pointer with 4:06 remaining in the game cut the lead to seven points for Seattle. Bird is trying to score for Seattle, but threw up two bricks instead. The third possession ended in a Griffith turnover, when she was stripped by Sacramento defenders. There's 2:44 remaining and the score is still 69-62.

INTERESTING AGAIN: Turnovers, fouls, and an increased defensive intensity has allowed Sacramento make it reasonable to get back in the game, down 69-55. The starters are back in the lineup and Bird just hot a shot to keep the Storm ahead with 6:34 remaining in the game.

OI! Oi! Oi!: The public address announcer just had KeyArena wish Olympians Bird, Jackson, and Santos (Brazil) good luck in the Games, this being the final game before the break. And for old times' sake, he led the crowd in a "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" chant for Jackson, who's already training with her national team. Santos is departing Monday, going directly to China.

CALLING IT?: It could just be to give the starters some rest, but with a 20-point lead, Agler may be calling it. He has normal reserves Ely, KG, Kelly Santos, and Wright in the game with Swoopes to close out the third quarter with a 67-49 lead. Bet he tries to hold with the bench players to get them some needed playing experience before the month-long break. It would also do Team USA a favor if Bird could get a breather. She's got a game-high 16 points with just three assists. Wright could finish with a double-double, leading the game with six assists to go with 12 points. Seattle has held all of Sacramento's starters in single-digit scoring.

KG4THREE: Just when the game was headed toward a lull, KG hit back-to-back three-pointers. Add a turnover by Sacramento that Cash converted into two made free throws and the Storm has regained their commanding lead at 63-49 with 2:20 left in the third quarter.

RUNNING AWAY: The Storm is up 51-39 because of some sweet defensive plays, including forcing two shot clock violations. A pretty Bird fast break layin off a Wright steal and dish made the 12-point advantage. It was Bird's first basket since the opening quarter.

BRUNSON OUT?: Boucek said she'd play it by ear if Brunson could play or not and so far the team's leading rebounder (7.4) isn't in the game to start the second half. She's on the bench talking to the team's trainer. On the court, Wright just scored to make the Storm lead 45-39 with 8:49 left in the third.

OLYMPIC UPDATE: I should mention that The Seattle Times is also traveling to California tomorrow to cover Bird and the Olympic team's training camp prior to leaving for China for the Games. I'm going to blog from practices, which start tomorrow at 5 p.m., and from the luncheon honoring Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts.

FOUL TROUBLE: Griffith couldn't escape the opening half without getting into foul trouble. She was just called for her third and replaced by Katie Gearlds. Gearlds made it all worthwhile, hitting a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds remaining before halftime. The shot was setup by Bird for the PG's first assist of the night. Storm is taking a 43-39 lead into the break.

SLOPPY PLAY: Well, two Storm turnovers and a missed shot has opened the door for Sacramento to wiggle back into the game. Lawson's layin at the 1:43 mark made the score 37-34 at the 1:37 timeout. Understandably not liking what he saw, Agler called time to discuss.

GETTING DIRTY: The Storm is mixing it up under the hoop to force consecutive turnovers against the Monarchs. Swoopes missed a three-point attempt that could have made the score really ugly. Still, Seattle leads 37-30 with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter.

SAY WHAT?: The Monarchs reserves shouldn't have any question about what Boucek wants when they enter the game. When the players on the court screw up, she immediately turns and harps orders at the bench with a voice that would make a NCAA cheerleader jealous. Boucek hasn't liked her team's defense, which has led to the Monarchs falling behind 31-26 with 5:41 remaining in the opening half.

END OF FIRST: The Storm led 21-20 at the end of the opening quarter, trying to cool the Monarchs' 56.3 percent shooting with their own crisp offense and a defensive boost from Swoopes off the bench. Bird is no longer caged, going 5-for-8 in the quarter for 12 points with no assists while Wright had three assists.

ANOTHER SEVEN DAYS?: Forward Kristen O'Neill's fourth seven-day contract is scheduled to expire on Tuesday, but will mostly likely be extended two days into the post-Olympic break since the league is suspended after the Storm's game. O'Neill will most likely be signed to another seven-day contract to buoy Seattle until the Olympic players return. UPDATE: O'Neill's contract doesn't expire until after the team resumes play Aug. 28. She'll have two days remaining on the fourth seven-day contract before Agler has to make a decision.

OFFICIAL VISIT: Dee Kantner, supervisor of officials, made her return to Seattle. She spoke prior to the game to season-ticket holders about her department, but didn't dive into the Detroit Melee, according to those who attended.

Text messages have been floating around the league between the Team USA Olympic players, asking each other what they packed for China and what to expect. Indiana forward Tamika Catchings had to have her bags ready Friday for the Fever's two-game road trip, the Americans' four-day practice session in Palo Alto, Calif., and the month in China competing at the Olympics.

Once Catchings packed, she text'd Sacramento guard Kara Lawson, who'll fly to California after tonight's game in Seattle. Storm guard Sue Bird packed on Saturday after returning from a four-game road trip.

"It's been difficult off the court more than anything -- all the logistics that come along with getting your travel itinerary and getting your family there," said Lawson, whose husband and parents among others are making the trip to Beijing. "Once I got here, I could focus on this team and trying to get this win."

The Monarchs are on a league-best seven-game win streak, challenging the Storm for second in the Western Conference. Coach Jenny Boucek, a former Seattle assistant, said it's "deceptive" because the team was making headway, but lost a five-point lead in 30 seconds against San Antonio, which "had the wind knocked out of us."

Otherwise, the team has been growing and they were able to collect some key wins against struggling teams, defeating expansion Atlanta twice.

But Bird equally wants to get a win to leave "with a good taste in my mouth." Seattle returns after going 2-2 on the road. Veteran Sheryl Swoopes is back in the rotation, but coach Brian Agler won't know until after warm-ups whether she'll be able to play. Swoopes definitely won't start, keeping guard Tanisha Wright at that position.

The Monarchs are waiting to make a decision on forward Rebekkah Brunson (fibula). She may just play sparingly. And Lawson isn't concerned.

"We've always been a team that's taken a little long to mature than other teams because we play a lot of players," she said. "But once we get to that point in the season, like now, for us to lose a player or have people hurt, it doesn't affect us as much because we play our bench. It's us coming together chemistry-wise and playing a lot of people gives us an advantage at the end of the season."

Well, here are tonight's starters:

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Yolanda Griffith
G Tanisha Wright
G Sue Bird

MONARCHS
F Nicole Powell
F Rebekkah Brunson
C Adrian Williams-Strong
G Kara Lawson
G Ticha Penicheiro

Tonight's officials are Shelley Nakasone, Scott Twardoski, and Kurt Walker.

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July 26, 2008 11:03 AM

Worthy read of WNBA melee

Posted by Jayda Evans

Yes, the WNBA melee has received enough airtime, blog space, and newspaper ink. But here's one last column I'd like to suggest you checkout, if you haven't already, then it's back to the game.

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July 25, 2008 6:32 PM

Mercury game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

REALLY OVER: Storm lost 94-80 to finish the road trip at 2-2. It's not what they wanted, but still an improvement on the 1-6 showing prior to this big stint away from KeyArena. The team will wrap up play before the break with a matchup against Sacramento on Sunday.

GAME OVER: Don't like to do this, but Taurasi just hit one of those three-pointers where the ball doesn't even touch the net as it floats through with grace, making it apparent this is not the Storm's night. The three-pointers, especially the ones Miller gets on the third offensive rebound, are really hurting Seattle. Anyway, the Storm trails 80-66 with 6:33 left in the game.

SMITH DOWN: Griffith went for a clean steal and was fouled by Smith, her third. But both went tumbling to the court and Smith has yet to get up. Agler mentioned prior to the game that Smith plans to have surgery on her knee during the Olympic break. It wasn't confirmed by Mercury PR, so we'll see. She walked off on her own. Phoenix is up 72-62 with 8:59 remaining in the game. UPDATE: Smith gave a quizzical look when asked if she'd have surgery on her knee during the break, "No! Where did you hear that?" she said after the game. She's had problems during her 11-year career in the league, but will use the break to get some rest like everyone else.

CAGED BIRD: The focus of Phoenix's defense has turned to Bird, who is 1-of-7 from the field and just turned the ball over with a travel call.

GO YO: Griffith was 0-for-4 from the field in the opening half, but she's acting like she took a little swig of the youth juice at the half to help the Storm. She's scored 12 of her 14 in the third, but Phoenix's quick scoring keeps teetering the lead from a one-point deficit to the current 72-61 at the end of the quarter. Seattle is really going to have to play strong defense and hit shots in order to pull this out -- duh!

EASY ELY: Ely was open under the hoop for a bucket from Griffith to tie the score at 54 points apiece with 4:54 remaining in the third. The hot shooting for Phoenix has cooled. Actually it's turned comical as both Taurasi and Pondexter have had shots go in the basket only to rim out in that agonizing way -- if you're a Phoenix fan. The Mercury is shooting 40 percent from the field to Seattle's 44.7.

GETTING CLOSER: A huge block by Cash on Taurasi was muddled by a made Miller three-pointer, but the Storm is still inching back into the game. They're down 52-48 with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter, using an 11-3 run to make this interesting. Forgot to mention, but the Mercury s playing zone on the Storm and did so in the opening half, too.

QUICK TIMEOUT: The Storm made the opening two baskets of the second half, looking like the team that won eight of its past nine games, so Phoenix coach Corey Gaines called time. Play is resuming now and Seattle is down 47-37 to open the third quarter.

SPOTTED: Former Storm original Charmin Smith is watching the game. Somewhere Chelle Thompson is in the building, too. The Storm just closed the half down 47-33, stopping the Mercury from making the score worse, but unable to convert on the offensive end to cut more into the deficit.

HOT MERCURY: It was about 113 degrees today in Phoenix and I'd say the baskets for the Mercury are even hotter. The team is shooting 51.9 percent from the field, helping them take a 42-27 lead with 2:44 remaining in the second quarter. The Storm inched as close as eight points, but the hot shooting is burying them. Agler has rotated in everyone but Kelly Santos and Kristen O'Neill and can't find the right defensive combination.

THE OTHERS: Storm coach Brian Agler was concerned about stars Taurasi and Pondexter, but he really was bothered by the thought of what Miller, Smith, and Kelly Mazzante would do to his tea,. Well, they're playing big roles in the Mercury leading 26-14. Manzzante hit a key basket during a run and Smith is 3-of-4 from the filed while Miller is 2-for-3. For the Storm, Shyra Ely is playing well off the bench, but the Storm is still making small errors that have led to the first-quarter deficit (26-17).

LITTLE IS BIG: The Storm is down 16-8, but Little is starting off hot again. She has six of Seattle's opening eight points. Cash commented that the team needs to start games like she does -- fully of energy. And the Storm doesn't look relaxed, but all the sun could have played a factor in them getting into the game. Bird is sporting a nice tan and Katie Gearlds has pink legs and arms.

The Mercury has been traveling and didn't have much media availability, so star Diana Taurasi hasn't had much time to comment about the scuffle between Los Angeles and Detroit on Tuesday. And she didn't hold back on Friday.

Taurasi loved the fight, of course, saying with a huge smile, "You definitely have to keep your cool, but who doesn't like watching a nice fight? It's acceptable in every other sport -- football, hockey they're like go ahead and punch it out and cool down. Everybody needs a cool down. There's nothing wrong with that. It's sport and sometimes it gets to that point. Not everyone is a saint, it's unfortunate, but it happens. What are you going to do? Shutdown the league? Shutdown the studio like Puffy?"

But the suspensions? Well, she's right in line with many who posted on this blog. Taurasi was extra hyped about the disparity because she received two games in 2007 for verbally accosting an official. As a reminder, Los Angeles players Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton-Jones, and Candace Parker were suspended one game for throwing punches.

"The suspensions were crap," Taurasi said. "I get two games for doing nothing and you've got people punching people and they get one game? To me, that's not justice."

Taurasi and her team have bigger issues, however. The defending champions are 3-7 in their past 10 games, last in the Western Conference. Taurasi said the team losing focus for stretches during games and didn't want to deny the impact the loss of Australian Penny Taylor has this season. Taylor is missing at least the opening half of the season to prepare for the Olympics with her national team.

With the loss of the Aussies -- Seattle is without Lauren Jackson for two more games -- Seattle guard Sue Bird expects the Mercury to start with zone coverage then switch to a lot of man-to-man. Seattle is starting guard Tanisha Wright again because forward Sheryl Swoopes is out with a pulled right hamstring.

Swoopes said the injury feels better than it did on Thursday, but not well enough to play.

Here are your starting lineups:

STORM
F Camille Little
F Swin Cash
C Yolanda Griffith
G Tanisha Wright
G Sue Bird

MERCURY
F Diana Taurasi
F Le'Coe Willingham
C Tangela Smith
G Cappie Pondexter
G Kelly Miller

Tonight's lovely officials are Sue Blauch, Michael Price, and Jeffery Smith.

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July 25, 2008 8:43 AM

Mailbag: Thoughts on the melee

Posted by Jayda Evans

The WNBA has turned into a circus. How else do you explain the aftermath from the melee in Detroit?

A one-game suspension for Los Angeles rookie Candace Parker? Watch the entire game and she sneakily started the whole thing by irritating Shock forward Cheryl Ford way before Plenette Pierson mowed Parker over and escalated the tension into a pseudo-brawl.

But wait, glance at the Sparks schedule and it seemingly becomes clear why she was really only suspended one game. Los Angeles plays at New York tonight, and Parker is the reason most teams have at least one guaranteed sellout this season. Think the WNBA is going to let L.A'.s only trip to the Big Apple pass without Parker on the court? Nope. So, some weak reasoning is given in a teleconference call by league officials and - presto! - Parker will suit up at the historic Madison Square Garden while Pierson continues to serve her four-game suspension.

What a joke.

Only it all doesn't stop there.

Playing a televised game on ESPN2 with an understaffed squad, Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer decides he needs more help on the bench. Of course, that means signing the best option out there to a seven-day contract. And that player is 50-year-old Nancy Lieberman, who hasn't played in the league in a decade? Somewhere Kimberly Beck, Doneeka Lewis, and Sharnee' Zoll just punched a wall.

Again, instead of showing professionalism, the WNBA acts desperate for attention. Are you really telling me that you need to vacuum the dust, mothballs, and cobwebs off Lieberman to get people to watch? Her playing was an insult to Houston's Tina Thompson, and the Shock's own Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith, who could have finally received some attention. But no, they're overshadowed by a sideshow.

But back to the suspensions. Storm forward Sheryl Swoopes agreed they weren't right, wanting more equality between the teams, since the actions were the same. Or worse when it came to DeLisha Milton-Jones hitting a coach - which should never happen.

Robin Roberts, co-anchor of Good Morning America who'll be honored with the WNBA's 2008 Inspiration Award on July 30, reflected on her own pop to a player's nose while playing in college because the officials didn't make a call when the opponent was swatting at her face.

"The player was all in my grill, so I put the ball under my arm, reared back and popped her," she said in a phone interview. "But in the heat of the moment, you're never supposed to let a team get to you, let them see you sweat. That was the last time that it happened and I think it helped me be a little calmer when I'm on air and the things that I do."

Roberts, a former WNBA commentator, also doesn't believe it's a good publicity move. I agree, even though others see the melee as some kind of turning point for the WNBA. Clearly these are the people that don't attend or watch games on television. You don't need a fight to see passion from the players. Just watch them go for a rebound or how excited a Diana Taurasi gets after a third consecutive three-pointer.

As a regular viewer, lack of passion is the furthest thought when thinking of the WNBA for me. Those who want it seem to not understand sport in the first place. They want fringe stories, like extramarital affairs, doping, and player brushes with the law. Not that you can ignore these stories when they happen with the athletes, but opposing sides hating each other is only going to make me tune in more when it comes to boxing. Otherwise, yes, I want a heated rivalry, but I want one side to defeat the other with acrobatic play, trash talk, aggressiveness, and have it all be monitored by officials who aren't afraid to make the call.

I don't even mind Detroit's style of play before the melee. In fact, I like the tough, bullying aspect. Especially against a princess rookie whose red carpet walk to the Rookie of the Year award now needs to be in question because of her lack of conduct.

Players need to keep their cool. And if they can't, the league should punish them equally.

"When I woke up that morning and saw the replays, I was like, 'Come on, no, we don't need this'" Roberts said. "The players, game, and league is better than this. And I understand about being passionate and in the heat of the moment, but eyes are on them. You can't give people ammunition [because] they want to see the league fail. Is that fair? No, but that's just how it is. And there's no way to explain or forgive those actions of the players. Like all of us, I do not want to see that happen again."

True, because it's making a league I love into a joke. And that's not funny.

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July 24, 2008 6:43 PM

Injury update

Posted by Jayda Evans

I'm going to stick to Storm coverage because I can't comment on the suspensions or commentator Nancy Lieberman returning to play after a decade's absence without getting snarky.

So the Storm practiced today in Phoenix, and center Yolanda Griffith was on the court with her team. She's expected to return to the starting lineup against Phoenix on Friday after missing Tuesday's win due to a concussion suffered in Sunday's loss to Washington.

Storm forward Sheryl Swoopes shot baskets, but did not participate in the session due to a pulled right hamstring. Swoopes suffered the injury against the Lynx, playing just 11 minutes. She said if she had to decide this afternoon, she would not play. That would mean guard Tanisha Wright would start.

"When I run, it just tightens up on me," Swoopes said of the injury.

Former Storm forward Chelle Thompson attended practice, but didn't get on the floor like broadcaster Adia Barnes. Both were on the 2004 championship team, and Barnes is an active practice player.

"It takes a lot to get these knees going," said Thompson, who lives in the Phoenix area

With San Antonio's win today, the Storm is a half-game back from the Silver Stars for first in the West, already losing the tiebreaker in head-to-head matchups by dropping the three-game series 2-1.

Phoenix is last in the league, but the game will look different without Lauren Jackson. The Storm is expecting the Mercury to play less zone and more man-to-man.

Liebermann has just entered the game in Detroit. She takes Griffith's place as oldest player in the league at 50.

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July 23, 2008 3:42 PM

Storm wins without stars

Posted by Jayda Evans

Heard the Storm locker room was rowdy after their win in Minnesota on Tuesday. Guard Sue Bird led a group missing three of its starters by the time the final horn sounded. Minnesota is young, but to win on the road under those conditions is impressive.

The Storm improved to 2-1 on the four-game road trip without leading scorer Lauren Jackson (20.3). But you could almost say, 'Lauren who?' by the way Camille Little is playing. OK, not really. But Little, an undersized post, is averaging 13.3 points and 8.6 rebounds since Jackson's departure.

Forward Sheryl Swoopes suffered a leg injury in the game and center Yolanda Griffith didn't start due to a concussion.

Both received treatment on Wednesday, according to a spokesman, but it was an off-day for the team, so it is uncertain whether Swoopes and Griffith will be able to play against Phoenix on Friday.

The Storm practices on Thursday in Phoenix.

In other news, Kristen O'Neill was signed to another seven-day contract. This one is a little perplexing seeing how the month-long Olympic break begins next week. Whatever issues Swoopes and Griffith could have will be dealt with by the time teams return to action Aug. 27. Jackson will return then, too.

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July 23, 2008 11:49 AM

Return to WNBA melee

Posted by Jayda Evans

Had a trifecta last week that caused my absence from the blog -- computer needed to be repaired, we didn't travel with the Storm, and it was my birthday. So, I took a vacation and threw a party.

But of course a trifecta would pull me back -- the computer is better than ever, we're traveling to the final road game in Phoenix, and Los Angeles is getting dirty again. Oh, sorry, Lisa Leslie; Your "mommy brain" must have made you forget that your team caused an earlier "black eye" for the league when former teammate Latasha Byers pegged former Storm guard Michelle Marciniak in the face with the ball at KeyArena in 2002.

Yeah, it's strange to note that the WNBA can use the phrase "back in the day," but 12 years does mean there's history. It's not often that the players try to beat each other down stateside (Elaine Powell has done some damage overseas), but it has happened before.

Yet, as of this afternoon, the league hadn't issued any fines or suspensions, saying only that the fight is being reviewed. But there better be plenty. Only nothing for Detroit assistant coach Rick Mahorn.

For those who missed it, check out these two stories. Basically, though, Mahorn was trying to keep the fracas from escalating and he held Leslie back -- when she tried to re-enter the ugly pile of wrestling players. Only when Mahorn did so, based on replays, Leslie appeared to trip backward and fall to the ground. Afterward she questioned why he would push her and ESPN pundits are split on whether Mahorn should be suspended, tying in his "Bad Boy" rep from his days playing for the Pistons.

Please. Doesn't anyone remember Jeff Van Gundy wrapping himself around Alonzo Mourning's leg in the 1998 playoffs? And let's not even get into the other melee at The Palace in the NBA, regarding what coaches (including Mahorn) did there.

Yes, Mahorn is a pest and an instigator. I can't tell you how many times he's plopped his big backside in my face atop the baseline media table while I'm writing or seemingly playfully taken my equipment and tossed it. All while snickering that I'm not this or that.

But it's a coach's job to try to stop a fight. Mahorn should not have to make a statement about violence against women. It was a fight. And if the players (men or women) are going to start throwing punches, coaches and officials need to step in and stop it. And DeLisha Milton-Jones cannot start smacking Mahorn's back in retaliation.

Players need to be fined for leaving the bench. Rookie phenom Candace Parker, Pierson, and especially Milton-Jones need to be suspended and fined for throwing punches. And Mahorn needs to be left alone while the media needs to quit making this into some domestic violence issue. This is part of sport and women fight, too, unfortunately.

The league is discussing the issue and typical protocol is to have a decision before both teams play on Thursday, big plug for Detroit's matchup on ESPN2 against Houston at 6:30 p.m. (PST).

For reference, Marciniak was fined and suspended for one game for throwing a punch. Storm fans tried to pay the fine. Byears was fined and suspended for two games. But there is a new collective bargaining agreement and no stipulation is defined there.

So, congratulations Parker. You're setting another precedent in the WNBA.

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July 17, 2008 9:14 AM

Quick tidbit, and then a break

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Storm's Lauren Jackson won an ESPY for "Best WNBA Player," it was announced this week. The "ESPY Awards" will be televised Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

This blogger will be taking a break until Monday. The Storm's road games this weekend will be covered by freelancers.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

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July 15, 2008 4:16 PM

TV Alert

Posted by Jayda Evans

Ever wonder what it's like to be a WNBA practice player? Well, you could read this or checkout KING/KONG-TV's feature on Wednesday by Chris Egan.

The "Seattle Storm basketball practice player" clip about Jimmy Quigg, who's been with the team since 2004, will air at 5:45 p.m. on KING (5) and 10:30 p.m. on KONG (6). NWCN(2) will pickup the show at 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.

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July 15, 2008 2:32 PM

O'Neill nabs contract from Storm

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm F Kristen O'Neill was signed through the remainder of the season today. The former Washington star was first signed to two seven-day contracts, the second of which expired this afternoon. Storm coach Brian Agler had the choice to either sign her or release her and possibly have her return to the practice squad, if not signed by another team.

But Agler chose to keep O'Neill, who pushes players like Katie Gearlds in practice and can be a deep backup for any position along the perimeter. O'Neill is also capable of playing power forward, but is undersized at 6-foot-1.

O'Neill has appeared in four games, averaging 3.3 minutes since being first being signed on July 1.

I'll have more details after practice.

UPDATE: Put the brakes on. O'Neill was signed to another seven-day contract. They were told today that a player can be signed to as many short-term deals as a team wants, unlike previous seasons when the limit was two. O'Neill is excited about the opportunity either way, stating that although she sweated out the expected "final answer" on Monday night, the longevity of contracts aren't in her control so she's not concerned with that aspect.


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July 13, 2008 10:51 AM

Off day

Posted by Jayda Evans

Had a tight deadline so I couldn't rework my story to write how delusional Lisa Leslie is these days. She calls it "mommy brain," but I think parents are smarter than that.

My co-workers were in the Los Angeles locker room after the game and when asked about Storm C Yolanda Griffith's defense -- you know, the one that helped prevent Leslie from making nine of her 11 attempts -- Leslie said it had nothing to do with defense. "But you write what you need for your story," she responded.

"We just finished playing Sacramento and that's pressure defense," Leslie said, forgetting that Griffith was the matriarch of that team the past nine seasons. "The difference was they wanted it more than we did and their rebounding was the difference.

"I missed some shots that I normally make. I don't know that it was Yolanda, but whatever you need to write."

Ah, Leslie, Griffith had 12 boards -- five on the offensive end.

Leslie did give props to the KeyArena crowd for their "cheering," which was really booing when directed at her. But she didn't admit too much else.

"Honestly, I could care less about the Storm," she said. "I don't have anything to feed you for the Storm. I'm only worried about the Sparks and we've just got to do a better job the next time we see them. It's not over. It's not over."

Well, Leslie got that right; it's not over. It never is with these two teams.

The finale in the three-game regular season series is after the Olympic break on Sept. 14 in LA.

Anyway, the Storm is off today then it will begin to prepare for life without Lauren Jackson, who's vacationing before joining her Australian national team for the Beijing Games. Storm coach Brian Agler said after the win that he'd probably rotate players in the starting lineup based on matchups. Players he's considering are Camille Little, Tanisha Wright, and Katie Gearlds.

One thing is certain, "In the back of my mind, this is not a day I was looking forward to," he said of Jackson leaving.

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July 12, 2008 6:06 PM

Sparks game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

SWOOPES GOES NUTS: Swoopes wants people on their feet, flinging her arms wildly in the air after a basket. The Storm won this convincingly 70-52, improving to 12-1 at KeyArena. The Storm outrebounded the Sparks 47-29, with Yo's 12 leading the way. Bird was the leading scorer at 18 while Jackson had five blocks, four on Parker.

LIFE WITHOUT LJ: Jackson has been on the bench for an extended period and this could be the Storm's look without her as she misses five games to prepare for the Olympics. A-Rob is in the game with Yo, Swoopes, Wright, and Cash. Seattle is up 63-47.

LA NEEDS TIME: There's still a lot of time left, but a turnaround jumper by Swoopes made the score 59-45 with 7:06 on the clock. They just showed Clarence on the jumbo screen and the crowd cheered. LA had to call a timeout to talk it over.

OUT OF ROTATION: Agler won't speak negatively about his players in public, but it's clear F Shyra Ely is in the doghouse. She hasn't played a minute while Little has played exactly that amount. When asked about Ely and why she seemingly has fallen out of favor, Agler responded that he likes the way all of his players are playing.

TRAPPED: Ashley Robinson is having a good game, helping Jackson trap Leslie in the paint for a three-second violation. Robinson has three boards in seven minutes off the bench.

WELCOME TO THE KEY: Parker said she was excited to see what KeyArena was like after hearing all the stories. Well, folks are giving her a real taste of Seattle. They're booing Leslie as if she was the mayor that sold the Sonics out to OKC and they're on their feet in excitement after a little 5-0 run put the Storm ahead 44-37. Seattle looks like they're in control, we'll see if they can pull it out. There's 4:34 remaining in the third.

GETTING NASTY: Swoopes collected the rebound of a Jackson block on Parker, but instead of continuing play, she screamed at official Eric Brewton that he missed a foul. "That's a foul!" she belted right in his face. With defenders still swatting at the ball, Brewton finally did call a foul on Milton-Jones. Storm is up 38-36.

BACK UP: Baskets by Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Candace Parker briefly put the Sparks down 35-34 with 6:53 remaining in the third quarter. Fans wanted a foul called on a Griffith layin, but replays clearly showed that Yo didn't have the hops to make the shot over Parker.

NEW VOICE: The normal public address announcer couldn't make the game tonight and neither could the backup, so guess who is behind the mic? OK, you wouldn't know him, but John Leach, director of events and entertainment for the Sonics is livening up the place. Don't worry haters, it's temporary.

HALFTIME LEAD: A block by Swoopes on Sparks newcomer Amber Jacobs at the buzzer saved a 30-28 lead for Seattle headed into the break. Press row has been talking about how LA still needs a PG, a problem since Temeka Johnson left due to personal reasons. The Storm made costly turnovers to allow the Sparks back in the game. Jackson leads in scoring with 10 on 3-for-9 shooting while Parker has eight on 3-for-8 shooting from the field. Halftime is all about pioneering women, an annual honor done by all the league's teams.

BIG DUO BACK: Leslie and Parker were resting while the Storm chipped away to tie the game. Leslie just threw to a fan in purple seated courtside (no joke), turning the ball over. So the score is still tied, but at 24 points apiece.

ICE COLD: Hopefully the shooting picks up, but the Storm is fighting hard to get back in the game. They're down 22-18 with 5:53 remaining in the second quarter. But Swoopes just collected a steal and called a timeout to retain possession. The Storm is shooting 29.6 percent from the field while LA is shooting 33.3. But Jackson just converted Swoopes defense into a tough layin to pull Seattle within 22-20. A bucket by KG tied the score and the Key in on its feet, finally drowning out the brave Sparks fans that dared to show their loyalty here.

BEAT LA: The chant has started and Leslie was booed by the KeyArena crowd during player introductions. Kristen O'Neill is on the inactive list for Seattle. Agler is probably going to use Kelly Santos as bait to draw Leslie into foul trouble. That was a factor in Los Angeles' losses.

COOPER BACK: Even though he was frisky in answering questions, Sparks coach Michael Cooper is back on the sideline after supposedly having to be rushed to the hospital on Friday during his team's practice. Cooper at first denied he had to go to the hospital, then said he had a "doctor's appointment" due to a "cold." The Los Angeles public relations spokeswoman said Cooper suffered from a herniated disk, needing medical care. Today she altered her statement to say, "he was a little under the weather. Sorry for the confusion." Regardless, Los Angeles is looking at this game as a biggie to regain control in the West. The Sparks play their biggest competitors in Seattle and San Antonio (Monday) before heading out on a long six-game road trip.

Remember the last time Storm F Lauren Jackson left for an Olympic break? Seattle crushed Charlotte 87-55 and Jackson hit so many three-pointers she shocked herself in finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds before more than 8,000 fans at KeyArena.

Surely Los Angeles will spark some energy in her. The electricity already has kicked up a notch with the arrival of Clarence, former Storm guard Betty Lennox's brother. He's dressed in a sharp black-and-white pinstripe suit with a black hat trimmed in white. So fly, people were clicking the camera for him and the south corner where he sat for Lennox's stint in Seattle gave him a warm reception.

But anything from the Storm would be better than the dud that was Thursday's noon game. Even Jackson admitted she was sluggish in the win.

The team watched clips of their loss to the Sparks in LA prior to tip-off. And from the glimpses I saw, this squad is different. They were killed inside by Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie, giving up 17 offensive rebounds.

"They exposed a weakness that we had at that time," Agler said of the Sparks. "We may look back on it one of these days and say they did us a big favor. Because the did expose us and give our players credit -- they recognized it and made the improvements. We've addressed it [the rebounding], but I don't think we're as good as we can be."

Seattle entered tonight's game outrebounding their past five opponents since the LA loss by 10.

Anyway, here are tonight's starters:

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

SPARKS
F Candace Parker
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
C Lisa Leslie
G Marie Ferdinand-Harris
G Shannon Bobbitt

Tonight's officials are Shelly Nakasone, Jeffrey Smith, and Eric Brewton.

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July 11, 2008 6:21 PM

Sparks coach hospitalized

Posted by Jayda Evans

Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper was rushed to a local Seattle hospital this evening after suffering a flare-up with a herniated disk in his lower back.

The Sparks arrived today and Cooper traveled with the team to the Storm's training facility for practice. But toward the beginning of the session, he felt a sharp pain in his side. He was taken to a hospital because the last time he felt a similar pain, he needed surgery. No more information was given on his condition.

Assistant coach Marianne Stanley conducted the remainder of practice and the Sparks were a lively bunch. Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie teamed for finally shooting to end the session then Parker had to give seven phone interviews.

The Sparks lost to Sacramento on Thursday in the second of a back-to-back set. Leslie said her team played 34 minutes of good basketball then just gave the game away.

Meanwhile the Storm is reporting everyone healthy and star Lauren Jackson left to spend the remainder of the afternoon packing for Beijing. She leaves Sunday for a small vacation in the states, then will leave for her native Australia on July 17. Her national team is going to a retreat together then Jackson will have a few days with family before leaving for the Games.

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July 11, 2008 12:47 PM

Who's your MVP?

Posted by Jayda Evans

What irks me about these types of league-generated stories is the omission of intangibles seen in games that should really be considered when selecting top awards like MVP or Defensive Player of the Year.

About 50 percent of 240 people that clicked on the link by this afternoon actually said rookie Candace Parker should be the league MVP at this point. Say what? Parker is an incredible player. And when she's done -- barring any major injuries -- she'll have turned this game on its head. But she's nothing beyond an MVP consideration at this point.

Parker is way too inconsistent, following up a 40-point night with 14 in a loss to Sacramento on Thursday. She's scored in double figures in every game this season, the low being 10.

If we're being fair, Lisa Leslie is the Sparks' rep for MVP at this point. She's steady as ever, despite a year off due to giving birth to her first child. Leslie is averaging 16.3 points and 9.2 rebounds, although she's had two dud games, too, including a seven-point night against the Monarchs.

I asked broadcaster Adia Barnes about her pick at this point and she thinks Lauren Jackson. "Of course I'm going to be biased," she said. "But they're winning [five games in a row] and that started when Lauren turned her game around." Barnes believes Parker should be considered but that she "overshadows" Leslie, the real pick.

Jackson picks Diana Taurasi, but they're buds, so I'm putting that on a friendship selection.

I'm wondering where Connecticut forward Asjha Jones' name is in all of this.

As of this moment, Jones is my pick for MVP. Did you see the way she worked over Jackson in the Sun's win at KeyArena? Jones is averaging 16.9 points and 6.1 boards this season, shooting 49.8 percent from the field with 2.0 assists.

Teammate Lindsay Whalen has a better efficiency rating than Jones, but Jones is always there to hit a key basket to help win a game. The Sun is 13-7 because of both, but I'm picking the finisher over the passer in this case.

Of course Jackson is also on my list with Tina Thompson (Houston) and Denna Nolan (Detroit), yet how the Storm performs for the five games without their star is also a factor.

It's an interesting race because at this point in the season, no one has clearly separated themselves from the pack. At this point last summer, Jackson already had five games scoring 30 point of more, winning the Player of the Week honor for the first week of July 2007.

She ranks third in scoring behind leading scorer Taurasi (23.8) and Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix), neither of which can be an MVP in my book because they're currently outside the playoff race at 9-10. Yet, Minnesota is also 9-10, so anything can still happen.

And it'll certainly be cleared up by the time play resumes after the Olympic Games because someone will start playing out of their mind to nab their team a coveted playoff spot.

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July 10, 2008 11:46 AM

Mercury game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM WINS: Behind a game-high 25-points from LJ, the Storm collected their 11th win at KeyArena, 89-78. Seattle has one last game with Jackson in the lineup prior to the Olympics -- Saturday against Los Angeles. Did you know phenom Candace Parker scored 40 last night? It could be good and it'll be on TV. The crowd is already booing the Sparks when they were mentioned during the post-game interview with Cash.

CALLING IT: Agler has placed all of his reserves in the game, including Kristen O'Neill, who continues to receive standing ovations from the KeyArena crowd. The coach talked about what he'd like to see from KO in the final games and it's along what he saw in the Minnesota win, but he'd like her to be aggressive while running the offense. He said there's a "strong possibility" she could be signed for the remainder of the season.

ANOTHER VIOLATION: Make that five three-second violations for Seattle.

SMITH OUT: Guess Smith isn't much of a difference maker. She fouled out with 6:43 remaining and the Storm ahead 76-57 after a bevy of three-pointers by KG and Bird. Smith, who missed all seven of her shot attempts, missed the last matchup between the teams at Key due to a knee injury. Today she finished with two points and five rebounds.

NEEDING PUNCH: The positive is the Storm's defense is still clicking, holding the Mercury well below their average (88 points), but you'd think it would be a little more exciting watching Seattle deny another team at the Key. It's not. The Storm has made tacky errors that have slowed the game down a lot. A three-pointer by KG with 18.7 remaining in third sparked some life in the arena. Seattle leads 62-51 headed into the final quarter.

ANOTHER VIOLATION: It's a lame call because teams constantly camp in the paint, but the Storm has been called four times for three-second violations. Jackson must have lead feet today in addition to a missing shot. And Phoenix is normally a favorite matchup of hers. Anyway, Seattle still leads 53-47 with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.

SHE SCORES: It was a difficult shot in traffic, but Jackson finally got her first FG to go down with a layin off an assist from Bird with 6:27 remaining in the third quarter. She has 11 points and five boards to help the Storm build a 48-42 lead. Griffith continues to be a workhorse underneath and Cash is playing solid defense.

WRIGHT STUFF: With a Wright three-pointer as the shot-clock wound down, the Storm takes a 37-31 lead into the break. Phoenix walked off with irked faces as things aren't working well for the visitors. Smith is 0-for-4 from the field and Taurasi is 2-for-8. Wright leads the Storm with nine points while Griffith is at eight with five boards. My favorite halftime show is up, Dodge Ball with the Kids vs. Mascots!

COFFEE PLEASE: Teams have shoot-around at this hour, but the Storm is looking like they missed their morning java. They've had three offensive three-second violations and have completely goofed on three possible offensive rebounds, although the team does lead Phoenix 21-16 in rebounding. But is anyone expecting the Mercury to grab a board? Didn't think so. The mental lapses have allowed Phoenix to hang close at 28-27 with 2:33 remaining before the half. Griffith is a burst of energy, however, scoring a team-high eight points with four boards.

O-FOR?: LJ's streak of scoring in double-digits of the opening quarter of her past three games is 21.7 seconds from ending. She's 0-for-4 from the field, finishing with two points off of free throws. The Storm closed the opening quarter ahead 20-15, getting a go-ahead three-pointer from Bird and nifty layin from Wright. Pondexter is on fire, though, shooting 4-for-9 from the field, making jumpers with the 6-foot-5 Jackson in her face. Nice.

TIE GAME: Cash just tied the score at 13 points apiece, making one of two FT attempts. There's 2:01 remaining in the opening quarter and Katie Gearlds just checked into the game.

NBA Friends: Bremerton native Marvin Williams (Atlanta) is catching the game, seated behind the Phoenix bench in all black. He seems to be looking at the scoreboard with a puzzled glare, could be because the Storm is down 11-8 after two inside buckets from Griffith. Phoenix is shooting 62.5 percent, but the Storm is starting to force some turnovers to inch back into the game.

FINAL OLYMPIANS NAMED: Team USA named the final three spots to its active roster, giving the nod to DeLisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles), Tamika Cathcings (Indiana) and Kara Lawson (Sacramento). Cash was notified last week that she would not be named to the group and is still working with the Storm to see if she's able to attend the Games as a commentator for flagship station NBC.

Well, Storm coach Brian Agler's ulcers are thanking the WNBA for today's afternoon game. He joked that the positive of having a matinee is that he can't "sit around all day worrying about the game" and over thinking matchups.

"It just hits," he said. "But you'd like to have a couple of practices before hand. They [Phoenix] score so easily that it's hard to even simulate in practice."

The Mercury is at full-strength with Tangela Smith (knee) and Cappie Pondexter (knee) in the lineup. And they'll surely put on a show for the throng of kids in attendance with their league-leading scoring (88.5). Phoenix also gets a little help inside from newcomer Le'coe Willingham.

The kids are part of the league's annual pitch to day-campers. A second of KeyArena's upper deck is open and all of the groups are in colorful identifiable T-shirts. The youngsters will also help Doppler celebrate his birthday.

Storm F Sheryl Swoopes will start tonight, moving reserve guard Tanisha Wright back to the bench. Swoopes suffered from a swollen left knee, missing Tuesday's road win in Sacramento.

Here are your 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 Tangela Smith
G Cappie Pondexter
G Kelly Miller

Today's officials are Clarke Stevens, Felicia Grinter, and James Williams.

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July 9, 2008 7:04 PM

Swoopes better

Posted by Jayda Evans

Storm F Sheryl Swoopes participated in a light practice session today after pulling herself from the starting lineup against Sacramento on Tuesday. Swoopes is experiencing swelling in her left knee, the same knee she had surgically repaired in 2001. But Swoopes hasn't had problems with the knee since and is uncertain why the pain is occurring, except for a need to rest.

"My body is probably a little tired," she said. "I've said this before, the break can't get here soon enough for me personally."

The WNBA will "go-dark" for the Olympics from July 28-Aug. 27. The month off will definitely work to the Storm's advantage, giving Swoopes, 37, and center Yolanda Griffith, 38, time to recoup and the offensively slumping Swin Cash time to correct her shot before Seattle makes its final playoff push.

The team will miss star Lauren Jackson for five road games -- four on the road -- this month. But Swoopes believes the team can display the type of stellar defense it's played during its four-game win streak without Jackson, possibly winning those games.

"It will be tough," Swoopes said. "We just have to believe."

Swoopes is uncertain whether she'll start or play "cheerleader" for Thursday's game against Phoenix. If unable to start, reserve guard Tanisha Wright will move into the lineup and Swoopes will be a sub for the perimeter players.

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July 8, 2008 3:04 PM

O'Neill retained by Storm

Posted by Jayda Evans

As expected, F Kristen O'Neill was signed to a second seven-day contract by the Storm. Here are the details from the team:

SEATTLE STORM SIGNS O'NEILL TO SECOND SEVEN DAY CONTRACT

SEATTLE, July 8, 2008 -- The Seattle Storm announced today that guard Kristen O'Neill has been signed to a second seven-day contract.

Since signing her first seven-day contract on July 1, O'Neill has played in two games against the New York Liberty and Minnesota Lynx.

O'Neill also played in two exhibition games earlier this season for the Storm, averaging 2.5 points and 1.0 rebound per game. She played in Spain during the 2007 season. The 6-foot-1 player former star at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood iis fifth all-time at the University of Washington in three-point field goals made.

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July 8, 2008 11:10 AM

Checking in on Sacramento

Posted by Jayda Evans

Sacramento is last in the West, but that doesn't mean much since they're only four games out of first place. The Monarchs usually have a field day against the Storm at Arco Arena with their purple haze defense, we'll see if it's the same without longtime star C Yolanda Griffith, who's making her first trip home since leaving as a free agent in March.

The Monarchs are more concerned about themselves, so expect fans to give Yo a big welcome, then return to their aggressive cheering style to help snap their team out of a two-game losing slump. Both loses were on the road.

Seattle just began shoot-around at Arco Arena. Our newspaper didn't travel, but I should have an update soon about F Kristen O'Neill. She made the trip, but her seven-day contract expires today. She's expected to be signed to another, but it will be her last before coach Brian Agler has to make a decision to sign her for the remainder of the season or left her go. O'Neill could return to the practice squad and be signed through the remainder of the season later, too.

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July 8, 2008 10:29 AM

Mailbag: TV Alert

Posted by Jayda Evans

It's not confirmed by the Storm or FSN, but supposedly the station picked up three more Storm games to air this month. I've already told you about Saturday's matchup against Los Angeles, which will be F Lauren Jackson's sendoff for the Olympics. That's listed on FSN's Web site to air beginning at 7 p.m. PST. But the station also has apparently picked up road games on July 20 in Washington (although the Mariners play that day) and July 22 (at 10 a.m. PST) in Minnesota.

FSN also is expected to carry the July 27 game against Sacramento at KeyArena, which will be G Sue Bird (USA) and F Kelly Santos' (Brazil) sendoff for the Olympic Games. I'm still waiting for official word from the team, but employees have been mouthy about the dates, so here's an early alert for those that can't make it to games.

And for those keeping count, if FSN does air all of these games, a likelihood since there won't be any money coming in from the NBA this year, it matches the amount shown last season. A date in September also is being discussed, which would put the Storm at six televised games -- its total in 2000.

Hopefully this calms all of the TV questions out there. It took a while because of the uncertainty involving the former Sonics, but these broadcasts should be worth the wait. And yes, tonight's game will not be aired. You'll have to tune in to Dick Fain and Adia Barnes on 1150 AM KKNW for that.

As a special treat, though, "NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad" will devote an entire show to the Storm on Saturday on ABC. The five starters took the program on tours of practice and the city and some old footage of the 2004 championship is supposed to be included. Here's the official release:

NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad devotes an entire upcoming show to the Seattle Storm....7/12/08 at 1 pm ET, 3PT on ABC-TV.

This week, NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad takes a behind the scenes look at the WNBA's Seattle Storm and its newly-assembled all-star lineup. The show takes a ride to practice with 3-time WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes as she talks about making a change in her career after a legendary run as a member of the Houston Comets. Cameras also catch up with 1999 MVP Yolanda Griffith, who adds experience to the Storm front line and gives viewers an all-access look at Storm practice. Two-time WNBA champion Swin Cash left the Detroit Shock for the Storm, and she visits a scenic overlook in Seattle to talk about her career transition. The heart and soul of the team remains the inside-out tandem of point guard Sue Bird and two-time MVP Lauren Jackson, and viewers will see how they've accepted all the new players into the fold. The show combines newly-shot all-access footage with a trip back through the NBA Entertainment archives for a rare look at this group of star players looking to make a run at the WNBA title. An inside look at the Seattle Storm...this Saturday, 7/12/08 at 1 pm ET, 3PT on ABC-TV.

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July 7, 2008 12:35 PM

Mailbag: Nine Inch Nails?

Posted by Jayda Evans

Warning. Don't ever tease Lauren Jackson about one of her favorite groups being at KeyArena and her not being told. Jackson, the biggest fan of rock group Nine Inch Nails, almost busted out of her skin when intimated that members of the band may have been at the Key on Saturday and she didn't know. They weren't but it was fun to ask if she spotted lead singer Trent Reznor.

"WHAT?!" she said. "I don't really think they would ever attend, but if they did you have to run out on the court and tell me. Seriously! Like normal people, I don't get that excited about, but I would go crazy if they were there. Or Marilyn Manson [sighs]."

Jackson, a 6-foot-5 Storm F, then demonstrated the type of run with flailing arms and other gestures.

Jackson said she's upset that she's missing the concert July 26. This week actually marks Jackson's last three games with the Storm before departing for Australia to join her national team in preparation for the Olympic Games. She leaves on July 17 and will not return until after the Games.

The good news is C Ashley Robinson, who missed the Storm's win Saturday against Minnesota, is back on the court. She sprained her right ankle and although she's feeling "achy," she said she's "fine."

Seattle is catching an afternoon flight for Sacramento, having just completed practice. They were off on Sunday and look ready to get their second road win of the season. But the Storm is 2-12 all-time at Arco Arena. Maybe C Yolanda Griffith making her first trip back to the city she led to the 2005 title will bring the Storm some luck.

At least you won't see Seattle taking any tacky pictures like Atlanta did after their first win against Chicago on Saturday. Did anyone see that on the WNBA.com main page? Goodness! That No. 1 some of the players, including former Seattle G Betty Lennox, are holding up can only mean "one" win. The Dream is 1-17 overall -- the worst start in league history.

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July 5, 2008 6:50 PM

Lynx game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM WINS: Seattle is an impressive 10-1 at home, defeating Minnesota 96-71 before one of the rowdiest crowds I've experienced here this season. Santos made it ugly with her late shooting and you really got to give the bench a lot of credit for closing this one out in the second half. KG finished with 17 while Wright added 11. Ely and Little combined for eight boards.

ANOTHER STANDING O: Rookie Kristen O'Neill checked into the game to a smattering of standing ovations and more rowdy cheers.

WHITE FLAG?: F Kelly Santos just checked in for Cash. I think Agler is calling it. Not a bad decision since KG is still hitting buckets, inching in for a jumper to make the score 83-56. The Lynx last hit a FG with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter. Ooops. LaToya Thomas just ended that with a 16-footer with 7:04 remaining in the game. Lynx are down 83-59.

NO. 20: The Storm just added to their league-leading shot-clock violation total, lulling the Lynx into their 20th of the season with 9:07 remaining in the game. Credit the bench for that one.

LITTLE BREATHER: A fan is screaming at the Lynx bench, wondering where the celebratory party they were throwing in the opening quarter went. Well, if Minnesota is going to make a run to get back into this game, they better do it now. Cash is the only starter still in the game. And the bench ain't slouching. The trade for Camille Little is genius and KG is still playing good defense while Shyra Ely and Tanisha Wright are doing the dirty work. The Storm leads 79-55 heading into the fourth. The team held Minnesota to 3-of-13 shooting (23.1 percent) in the third.

ANOTHER THRITY: So, Jackson will probably get POW as a little send-off for the Olympics. She just nailed another three-pointer and has another season-high with 34 points on 15-of-22 shooting from the field. Jackson also has seven boards and Bird has 10 assists as the Storm leads 72-51 with 2:03 remaining in the third. Could we be headed toward a 100-point night? Storm hasn't done that since 2007 when it scored 111 against Phoenix in August.

HEY REF: Well, Jackson was just served her second technical foul of the season after being tagged for a bad defensive foul. Bird says the "ball doesn't lie," so Augustus did make the FT for the tech because Jackson does curse. But Vanessa Hayden-Johnson, who elbowed Jackson to originally get position, missed both of her ensuing FT. Later Jackson was called for an offensive foul and Hayden-Johnson a foul. A bucket by Bird with 5:27 remaining helped make the score 63-49. The Key is seriously going nuts. Guess no one has a hangover from the Fourth celebrations or this game is a little hair of the dog.

IN CONTROL: A little 8-0 run pulled the Lynx within five points of the Storm to close the opening half, but Minnesota is calling an early timeout at the 8:13 mark after the Storm opened the quarter on a 6-0 run to make the score 53-42 Seattle. Jackson made four of those points.

BOOO!: Those pleasantries for Nickels were short lived. He was just shown on the KeyArena jumbotron and fans booed loudly. So bad and uncomfortable was his wave while being booed that the public address announcer didn't even give the normal introduction. They just cut quickly to the Storm logo. Ouch!

GO KG: Can I get personal for a moment? I've been watching KG this season and waiting for her three-point shot to go down. Actually, I've been waiting for the whole team's three-point shot to go down since they rank last in the league at 28 percent. Well, I talked to KG about it prior to the game and dang it if she doesn't go out and nail 3-of-4 attempts. Anyway, her hot shooting and assist to LJ inside has the Storm up 42-30 with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter.

GOT CASH?: Cash just made a beautiful bank shot in the paint with 6:28 remaining in the opening half to put the Storm up 32-25. But Augustus is amazing, stopping Swoopes in her tracks on defense. Still her 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting isn't enough as of yet to pull the Lynx back into the game.

BIG FINISH: Yeah, it took a minute for the Storm to figure out the Lynx's defense and once they did, they erased a 13-point deficit on a in-bound jumper by Jackson at the final buzzer for the quarter off an in-bound pass from Katie Gearlds. The score is tied at 23 points apiece.

BIG TRIBUTE: Lorin "Big Lo" Sandretzky, known as Seattle's biggest sports fan, is suffering from Diabetes, needing surgery on his legs. To help offset expenses, there will be a benefit in his honor on Aug. 17. You can learn more about it here.

HOT STUFF: The trouble with young teams is they're so cocky. The Lynx are acting like the Key is their house, hitting threes and playing solid enough defense to open the game up 15-2 on 6-for-6 shooting from the field. Bird and LJ are helping to respond for the Storm. They've hit the team's last seven points to pull Seattle within 17-9.

HEY MAYOR: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels made another appearance at the Key to catch the Storm game with his family. Plenty of fans and employees gave him handshakes as he weaved to his seats, none tossing tomatoes for the Sonics leaving.

Storm C Ashley Robinson will be on the inactive list due to a sprained right ankle. She told coach Brian Agler that she felt better today, but not good enough to play. She spent pregame in the trainer's room, receiving treatment and is hopeful to play on Tuesday when the team plays at Sacramento.

Tonight's game should be interesting as Minnesota is another young team -- the youngest in the league -- and plays an aggressive defensive style that can frustrate older teams. Lynx coach Don Zierden gave Storm stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird much props, though, saying that if his team doesn't mix up their defenses and personnel covering them, "they kill you."

All-Star Seimone Augustus has the best mid-range jumper in the league, according to Agler, and her leadership has been key to Minnesota starting off so strong after being predicted to be the Atlanta of the West by most pundits (not me). Augustus is averaging 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.4 assists.

On a side note, congratulations need to go out to Atlanta for nabbing their first win of the season. The Dream defeated Chicago 91-84 today and former Storm players Betty Lennox and Iziane Castro Marques contributed a combined 20 points.

Here are your starters:

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

LYNX
F Seimone Augustus
F Nicole Ohlde
C Nicky Anosike
G Anna DeForge
G Noelle Quinn

Tonight's officials are Scott Twardoski, Byron Jarrett, and Maj Forsberg.

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July 4, 2008 2:16 PM

Robinson doubtful for Saturday

Posted by Jayda Evans

The Sonics remained prepared for backlash or a media onslaught on Friday, hiring two unmarked police cars to sit in the training facility parking lot. The offices where Seattle's team used to be were dark for the holiday and most are headed to Orlando for the team's summer league play. That left the Storm on their practice court to grind away in preparation for Saturday's game against Minnesota.

Not practicing was C Ashley Robinson, who rested atop a trainer's table adjacent to the court with her right leg in a massive green boot-like contraption that's made to help distribute fluids from swelling in her ankle throughout her entire body. Robinson rolled her right ankle on someone's foot following a made put back with 6:27 remaining in the third quarter of Thursday's win against New York. The bucket made the score 58-42.

Robinson walked gingerly with one crutch and sounded real doubtful when speaking about her chances to play against the Lynx. She's averaging just 8.2 minutes, but the Storm could use depth inside against a Minnesota team that features hot rookie post Nicky Anosike and center Nicole Ohlde.

"It's just an ankle sprain, but it hurts," said Robinson, who added that she rarely suffers such injuries. "I doubt it [playing] the way it feels now."

Expect F Lauren Jackson to not make Robinson's absence a factor.

The Australian has been dealing with a water leak in her new condo, which caused maintenance to tear up her ceiling and floors, which placed the team's leading scorer in a funky mood to be taken out on opponents. Private about her "space," Jackson was told the work wouldn't be completed until after she returns from the Olympics at the end of August. She departs on July 17 to join her national team, marking the July 12 home matchup against Los Angeles as her final for the Storm.

"I'm furious," she said of the problem. "It's a beautiful place and I've bought lots of property in my time, but never had a problem like this. I'm pissed. I haven't had a smile in the last two days."

Jackson scored a season-high 33 points against the Liberty and averaged 21.3 in three games against Minnesota last season. The Storm split the four-game regular season series at two games apiece, Jackson missing one due to injury.

Working in the Storm's favor for their final game in this three-game homestand is an odd streak involving Los Angeles. Seattle's past two opponents in Washington and New York played LA prior to traveling to Seattle and defeated the Sparks at Staples Center. But Seattle promptly crushed both, holding Washington to 49 points.

The Lynx (9-8), which slumped after starting the season at 6-1, defeated the Sparks 88-70 on Thursday behind star Seimone Augustus' 29 points and 19 from rookie Candice Wiggins off the bench. If the Storm (10-7) can manage another home win, they'll leapfrog the Sparks (10-6) for second in Western Conference standings -- a position that gives the owner home court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

"The West is kind of crazy right now," said Bird, who had a season-high 23 points against the Liberty. "It's too early to even judge. Hopefully we're the team that can kind of separate ourselves coming up. But I have a feeling it's going to come down to literally the last day of the season."

For the Storm, that last day is in Los Angeles on Sept. 14.

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July 3, 2008 6:18 PM

Liberty game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

STORM WINS: It got a little dicey in the fourth quarter, but the Storm held on for a 84-71 win before 6,973 fans at KeyArena. Although the number is low, it felt like a lot more were in the stands as the crowd helped rally the Storm to a 9-1 home record. Next up is Minnesota on Saturday.

NO OLYMPICS: Cash talked prior to the game about finding out she's not going to be one of the final three named to the team. Bird also talked about the disappointing news for the teammates, saying, "it's a bummer. Swin has been on the comeback trail with last year and she's hit her stride. For her to kind of fall short and not make the team is upsetting."

MORE STANDING Os: Bird and Jackson received standing ovations as they left the court with 23 and 33 points, respectively. There's 49.5 seconds remaining and the Liberty did managed to inch their score to 70, but they're still down 14 points. They've had 20 turnovers, which the Storm converted into 15 points and the Storm has outscored the Liberty 48-16 inside -- that's the equivalent of getting dunked on to me.

LIBERTY CHALLENGING: The Storm is losing focus and has allowed the Liberty to crawl within 74-67 with 3:40 remaining in the game following a three-pointer by Christon over Griffith. Moore just fouled Griffith, who has made both free throws to keep the Storm ahead. Bird also hit a bucket after a Liberty traveling call to make the score 78-67 with 2:39 remaining in the fourth.

CONGRATS TULLY: It's a little off topic, but I just learned that former Storm PG Tully Bevilaqua was finally granted a nod to be an Australian Olympian. The team was named today and here's the link.

ROBINSON QUESTIONABLE: A-Rob left the game early in the third quarter due to a injured right ankle suffered on the land of a made putback. She is questionable to return. It's the same leg that has trouble her with Achilles tendonitis this season. UPDATE: Robinson told Agler she's "fine." I'll have more from practice on Friday.

STANDING O: OK, folks really love O'Neill. She just checked into the game at the 3:30 mark of the third quarter to a rousing standing ovation. It's actually a moment in history as Kraayveled and Mitchell are also on the court, representing all of Washington's players in the WNBA. The Storm is still hot, leading 66-47 behind Jackson's game-high 30 points.

ACTION JACKSON: Seriously, LJ is possessed tonight. The opening quarter just wrapped up and she has 23 points on 9 for 13 shooting. This is more like the 2007 player who won her second MVP title. The Storm is shooting 60 percent from the field and leads 51-38 at the break.

LITTLE MOVE?: Press row is noticing that newcomer Camille Little has seemingly trumped F Shyra Ely and G Katie Gearlds in first reserves off the bench. It could be about matchups, too, as Agler does make moves in this manner, but Little in the game now, followed by Gearlds. Storm still leads 22-14 with Jackson accounting for 12 points and four boards. This is her best start of the season.

SPECIAL VISITORS: Washington State coach June Daugherty is here, watching her former UW star O'Neill. WNBA president Donna Orender is also here for a mid-season visit. Loudest cheers are for Lelani Mitchell, who made her KeyArena debut at the 5:44 mark of the opening quarter.

Storm F Sheryl Swoopes will start tonight and coach Brian Agler doesn't believe he'll limit her minutes due to a sore right knee suffered in Tuesday's practice. Swoopes missed Wednesday's session due to the injury but worked with Agler prior to shootaround, stating she feels "fine" for the game.

Swoopes will wear a black brace to protect the knee. Agler is expected to place Brazilian F Kelly Santos on injured reserve because of the possible need for perimeter players against New York's pressing defensive attack. The coach also expects to play F Kristen O'Neill tonight, who has dozens of fans attending.

But the crowd has a heavy blue feel as Kennewick native Lelani Mitchell's friends and family are decked in New York colors and seated in Section 115. Mitchell guessed she has about 60 people here, making most get their own. C Cathrine Kraayveled also has a number of people attending, causing a mini battle between the two for teammate's extra tickets.

The vibe in KeyArena is still lively considering the Sonics news. Storm F Lauren Jackson said she was depressed about the move, knowing a lot of the front office people and she's come out like a woman possessed, shooting 3 of 4 from the field for seven points and two rebounds to help the Storm to an early 13-2 start with 5:44 remaining in the opening quarter.

Here are your starting lineups:

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

LIBERTY
F Shameka Christon
F Cathrine Kraayeveld
C Janel McCarville
G Essence Carson
G Loree Moore

Tonight's officials are Roy Gulbeyan, Denise Brooks-Clauser, and Kevin Sparrock.

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July 3, 2008 8:25 AM

Checking in on New York

Posted by Jayda Evans

It's a dreary day in Seattle -- and that's not just because of the thunderstorms blanketing the Puget Sound with rain and lightning. The Sonics are leaving, stripping the state of half of its pro hoops teams. The Sonics and Storm are the only teams from major professional leagues to have won a championship for Seattle.

It's an odd day, too, because tonight marks a complete parallel to the Sonics' games against the New York Knicks.

In the winter, the game features two Washingtonians in Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson for the Knicks against native Sonics guard Luke Ridnour. Now in the summer, the Storm features Kristen O'Neill (Edmonds) against the state's two representatives on the Liberty in Cathrine Kraayeveld (Kirkland) and Leilani Mitchell (Kennewick).

Of course the Liberty is more entertaining on the court than the Knicks, who seemed to only create drama on the sideline or court rooms. The women will try for their second consecutive win tonight after defeating the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Liberty is a young, feisty group that's core has played together for three years. Expect lots of pressing defense and for the Storm to need steady ball-handling from its perimeter players to keep its KeyArena losses at one.

While the Storm (9-7) has picked up defensively, holding Washington to 49 points on Sunday, the Liberty (8-7) has averaged 88.6 in its past five games, making it a formidable matchup. Guard Shameka Christon is one to watch, averaging 18.4 points (including 50 percent shooting from three-point range) in her past five games.

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July 2, 2008 12:44 PM

Swoopes better?

Posted by Jayda Evans

Caught a glimpse of Storm practice today and F Sheryl Swoopes was ridding a stationary bike along side C Yolanda Griffith, who was on her own bike. After a few moments, Swoopes got off the bike and then sat atop a makeshift trainer's table adjacent to the practice court, pulling up her pant leg to reveal a heavily wrapped right knee.

I was off yesterday and all accounts of how she suffered the injury and the severity of it during the session are vague, so I still don't have any concrete answers -- just observations. The fact that Swoopes was able to move the knee on a bike has to be a positive sign.

The three-time MVP has only had two surgeries in her illustrious career. She missed the entire 2001 WNBA season due to a torn ACL and lateral meniscus in her left knee. She only played three games in 2007 due to a lower back injury, which needed surgery in October.

UPDATE: Media has been allowed into practice and Swoopes is on the court with assistant coach Shelley Patterson, her son, and athletic trainer Tom Spencer working on sliding and soft drives to the hoop. She's doing some light jogging, too, so the injury isn't as bad as it sounded on Tuesday. Swoopes remains uncertain if she'll start against New York on Thursday, however. She's going through an extensive treatment session and if unable to go, G Tanisha Wright will start in her place.

LOCAL HOOK-UP: Washingtonians Cathrine Kraayeveld and Kristen O'Neill caught up with each other when Kraayeveld's New York team arrived at the Storm's practice facility this afternoon. They, along with Liberty rookie G Leilani Mitchell (Kennewick), are the only locals playing in the WNBA. And for those wondering about O'Neill's jersey number, F Camille Little is keeping No. 20 while O'Neill is going to wear No. 32. Guess the tribute to Kayla Burt will have to be lived through Little instead of O'Neill. (For those that don't know, read all about it here.)

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July 1, 2008 1:28 PM

Olympic announcement pushed back a week

Posted by Jayda Evans

What's harder than naming the final three players for the U.S. Olympic team? Apparently getting the committee together to discuss its options.

According to sources close to the decision-making, members of the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team committee had several scheduling conflicts that prevented them from making their final roster announcement by today, a self-imposed deadline. That means another week for fans to debate whether Storm forward Swin Cash is a better pick than Indiana forward Tamika Catchings or whether Sacramento guard Kara Lawson and forward Rebekkah Brunson should be picked over Connecticut point guard Lindsay Whalen or Washington guard Alana Beard.

USA Basketball expects to have the official announcement made by July 10. USOC will name all Olympians for all sports by the end of the month.

The Storm already has three Olympic representatives in Sue Bird (United States), Lauren Jackson (Australia) and Kelly Santos (Brazil). Jackson is the only player departing early, on July 17, to prepare with her national team, missing five Storm games.

The WNBA will "go dark" from July 28 to Aug. 27 for Olympic competition, giving non-Olympians about two weeks for vacation and requiring them to return in shifts for community work then to join as a group for practice.

"I've never thought about anything else, but that I was going to be in China," said Cash, a 2004 Olympian, of her plans if not named. "I don't have any backup plans. I don't have any vacation time planned. My only plan was China. I guess we'll know in a week or so."

Jackson will quickly reunite with Santos in Australia as their countries play each other in two games before leaving for China for the Games.

UPDATE: Jackson's "Expect Great" commercial will debut tonight during the Phoenix-Atlanta broadcast on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. PST. The players shot different versions of the campaign and this spot isn't the one Jackson told me about when interviewed following the filming in June, but it's still a good ad. Phoenix G Cappie Pondexter will also be featured tonight and you can check out both here.

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July 1, 2008 11:41 AM

Storm signs O'Neill

Posted by Jayda Evans

Teams can sign players to seven-day contracts beginning today, and the Storm promptly signed former Washington standout Kristen O'Neill. It's probably the best move the team could make to help its perimeter situation because O'Neill has been a practice player since being cut during training camp.

Storm coach Brian Agler is looking for "blue-collar" players, meaning those who'll do the dirty work. None get scrubbier than O'Neill. She's a solid defender, hustles to loose balls and was in comand of the practice squad -- knowing where each player in that group needed to be and the Storm's plays, as well. We'll see if this translates to being on the actual roster, however.

O'Neill can be signed to two seven-day contracts before the Storm has to make a decision to sign her through the remainder of the season or let her go.

Here's the release from the team:

SEATTLE, July 1, 2008 --The Seattle Storm announced today that guard Kristen O'Neill has been signed to a seven-day contract.

O'Neill played in two preseason games earlier this season for the Storm, averaging 2.5 points and 1.0 rebound per game. O'Neill played in Spain during the 2007 season. The 6-1 local player from Edmonds, Wash., is fifth all-time at the University of Washington in three-point field goals made.

The roster now stands at 12 players.

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