Flowers from cheery blossom trees are dropping, the sun is beaming and tall people are running around — that can only mean Storm basketball is back. Training camp officially opens across the WNBA today.
Seattle’s players are in the process of taking physicals, meeting with the coaching staff and preparing for an evening practice. But players like guards Kimberly Beck and Sue Bird have been playing pick-up ball with newcomers like Kasha Terry and draft pick Ashley Walker since Friday.
The Storm has six players signed under guaranteed contracts, including two-time MVP Lauren Jackson, and 10 players signed as a whole, theoretically leaving just one spot up for grabs. I’ll have more on that for Monday’s newspaper, but Storm coach Brian Agler expects to start making cuts after Thursday’s exhibition opener against Sacramento at KeyArena.
Seattle is searching for the right combination to break its four-year curse of being booted from the postseason in the opening round despite having two of the top players in the world. But Los Angeles and Indiana are my early favorites to attempt to knock Detroit off its throne. The Shock has won three of the past six WNBA championships.
Aside from the draft moves that the Fever and Sparks made, the farewell tour of legends Yolanda Griffith and Lisa Leslie will add emotion to their respective seasons. Both players also have “forever bridesmaids” on their roster in Tamika Catchings and Tina Thompson, who don’t get enough accolades for their talents (although Thompson does know the feeling of winning a championship), adding a little kick. Maybe this is the season Catchings will win MVP en route to Indiana’s first title?
Like every season, things will move quick. Teams are limited to 15 players in camp, so everyone is keeping a close eye on the waiver wire for pieces they may want to add to help them win. Phoenix already cut its third-round draft pick Jessica Adair.
“Every team is going to be better this year, they’ll all be deeper,” Phoenix general manager Ann Meyers Drysdale said. “There’s a lot of teams that still have to cut down to 15, let alone the 11. You’ll see a lot of players getting waived and it’s going to be tough.”
In Seattle, Jackson won’t arrive until May 31 in order to participate in Storm center Suzy Batkovic’s wedding; they’ve been friends since childhood. Batkovic will arrive on June 7, missing at least the team’s opening two games after a brief honeymoon.
“It’s going to be magical,” said Jackson of the wedding. She had the final fitting for her gunmetal-gray gown recently. The wedding will be in Sydney and Jackson is a first-time maid of honor, missing her other two close friend’s weddings due to play in the WNBA. “I’m not used to wearing dresses. I said that to mom, ‘Oh, God this is the first time in a while I’ve worn a formal dress like this. I actually look really pretty in the dress.'”
Storm forward Swin Cash, who had outpatient back surgery in March, has a doctor’s appointment Monday and won’t arrive in Seattle until Wednesday. Guard Tanisha Wright’s team lost the French title on Wednesday and her arrival date hasn’t been pegged.
“Our training camp is going to be really competitive,” said Agler, who has also spent the offseason traveling the state to sell the team. “There are a couple of spots that I feel are wide open and I think that’s a good thing.”