Teams across the WNBA are wrapping up a tough fourth day of training-camp Wednesday. The Storm? They’re either sleep or frolicking in the rare Seattle sunshine.
Coach Brian Agler gave the players the day off, one of two that will occur the opening week of camp. He had one full session, an approximate three-hours with his entire core on Tuesday, and three days overall to evaluate newcomers, making two cuts on Monday.
Wednesday is all about digesting what was learned.
“Part of improving is you have to have the ability to be rested to get better,” Agler said. “We needed to take a day off right now. A lot of our people have been out there quite a bit.”
The coaching staff hasn’t really integrated the new faces with the nine players expected to be on the final 11-member roster. The newbies have either watched the vets learn offensive schemes and trained them as a group with assistant coach Nancy Darsch, or played their own scrimmages with the male practice squad while the vets cheered on the sideline.
Agler anticipated more mixing when camp resumes Thursday. Yet, with 17 days remaining before opening day against Phoenix on June 4, he’s already concerned about time.
“We have to really focus now with the people who are going to play in the games,” said Agler, whose Storm is undefeated at KeyArena since 2009, but 0-1 in games when receiving championship rings beforehand.
Part of the preparation is conditioning. Although most of the players recently completed seasons overseas, All-Stars Sue Bird and Swin Cash also training with USA Basketball, the Storm isn’t as fit as Agler would like his defending championship team to be.
He worked the team hard on Tuesday on defense and still expected most players to get some cardio workouts in on Wednesday. The new players also ran an extended scrimmage, which media was able to view while interviewing on Tuesday.
“Conditioning affects a lot of things — your thought process, turnovers and things of that nature, so we’ve got to work on some things,” Agler said. “Swin and Sue are in good condition. But playing defense the way we want to play it takes a special conditioning both mental and physical. Our team’s not there, yet, so we’re going to try to get there.”
More cuts are looming, possibly following Friday’s session. The coaching staff is also keeping an eye on the WNBA transaction wire for talent to drop elsewhere, but Agler said the big possible adds probably wouldn’t be cut until the week heading into the season.
Seattle opens exhibition play May 25 in Los Angeles and hosts Tulsa on May 29 at KeyArena.
“I feel bad, it’s going to be some tough decisions for Brian and the crew,” Bird said. “With each possession that goes by, someone does something that sticks out. It’s gonna be tough. The good and the bad about our team is, the good is we definitely have some spots open, so these players have legit chances. The bad, is it’s not necessarily going to be about who’s the most talented. It might just be about who fits best for what we need.
“Obviously we need another post player, there’s no doubt about that. In terms of guards, do you take another point guard? Which would be Courtney (Ward). Do you want someone long and athletic who can maybe play more than one position – Ify (Ibekwe). Bridgette (Mitchell) is just constant energy. Then you have Snelly (Belinda Snell), who’s the shooter. It’s really going to be about what fits into our team.”
Cash agreed after her first practice with the team. She was Agler’s biggest free agent signing, assuring the Storm would retain its starting unit for a fourth consecutive season.
“You never know with foul trouble and you want to have people who compete hard in practice so when that time comes, they’re prepared and ready to go,” Cash said of the final slots. “These are all really great young women and that’s positive when you have people that work hard and want to contribute whenever they can. That’s what’s hard when you talk about cuts because it’s just a few spots.
“But with our defense, we like to switch a lot. We like people who can play multiple positions. So, people who (are versatile) is good, but you can’t pay for size. Then you look at Courtney and she’s a solid point guard. It’s been a long time since we had a young (PG). She does not make many mistakes, she’s just solid. So, you don’t know the direction that the owners or Brian or the team will go.”
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm stars Lauren Jackson and Katie Smith pose with “Flat Stanley” after practice on Tuesday, supporting international literacy.