The last time the Storm had a wild stretch – four games in eight days – limiting practice time, but continuing to win, I joked with coach Brian Agler that it must prove the team doesn’t need so many sessions, right?
“No,” was his quick reply after the team killed Phoenix at home. He then laughed and did award the players with two days off. But Seattle didn’t get the same perk this week after playing three games in four days – including a road trip out East.
Storm F Lauren Jackson dripped in sweat as she worked with developmental coach Jenny Boucek during a shooting drill while on the other end teammates — aside from Sue Bird (injury) and Swin Cash (rest) — played six-on-six basketball.
“It helps our defense because the hardest thing to defend, to me, in a team-setting is three-on-three because you have so much court to cover,” said Agler of the snippet of practice I was able to see. “You have a little bit more responsibility than you normally would have – less help. Offensively, it gets us in a rhythm of playing together.
“You also have to play against the press and press a little bit. And you have to play as a team. We do it quite a bit. If we have a stretch of 10 practices, we’ll do it seven times. We don’t do it for long periods — maybe six-minutes or a couple of three and four minute scrimmages. It also keeps the pounding running up and down the floor (down).”
As a junior college coach, Agler has recruited players from Oklahoma who played six-on-six ball. The throwback drill mainly helped the team prepare to host Indiana (8-4) on Friday.
The Fever pressed the Storm (11-2) well, knowing Seattle’s tendencies given coach Lin Dunn drafted Jackson and Bird. Seattle didn’t respond well to the pressure and didn’t attack the board for rebounds, losing by seven points and needing practice.
The rematch at KeyArena should be interesting. Bird is expected to start, just participating in shooting drills on Tuesday. She hyper-flexed her left knee in the third quarter on Sunday, not returning. Bird tore her ACL in 1998 and hyper-flexing the knee could have led to a PCL injury, which former teammate Katie Gearlds suffered in 2009.
“I was able to (run n the locker room), but the minute I went too far – like if I had to play defense in a stance – I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” said Bird of the initial pain. She’s slipped on ice during the offseason in the past, suffering a similar sensation. “The next day when I woke up (Monday), I was fine. I could do all of those things. It just takes a little while for it to go away.”
Bird was told not to run on Tuesday, but is expected to participate in a full session on Wednesday. The Storm is heading into another tough stretch with three games in five days. Bird said she likes the breaks to work on things with her team, but Agler, of course, would like a balance between practice and games.
“It’s sort of strange,” Agler said. “We have a break and then we have three games in four days or five days. It’s good in terms of you get a chance to get some practice time in, but at the end of those games you haven’t practiced in four or five days and you get tired. You have to find ways to stay motivated and fresh. Our team, to this point, has done a pretty good job of that.”
STORM AROUND THE WEB
With winning comes exposure, so you’ve probably noticed that this site isn’t the only one covering the Storm. Here some overview stories I found of interest.
— From the USA Today, the team is staying centered despite splashy start.
— From Swish Appeal, statistical analysis of Seattle being the best in the WNBA
— From Fanhouse, an ode to Seattle’s winning with players preaching patience.
— From Sports Illustrated, the Storm isn’t getting overconfident.