Perhaps the WNBA should pitch this one as “Expect Ugly.” And I’m trying not to disrespect the remaining “healthy” Storm players on the roster. But Seattle will be without its three All-Stars and experienced reserve in Katie Gearlds (knee) tonight while Phoenix, the No. 1 seed in the West, is fully loaded.
Oh, and they’re still playing for the best overall record in the league to assure home-court throughout the postseason. Phoenix is currently tied with Indiana, the No. 1 seed in the East, with matching 22-10 records.
“It’s a regular game, we have to stay sharp,” said Mercury coach Corey Gaines of playing All-Stars Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter (pictured right by WNBA), and Australian Olympian Penny Taylor as normal. “We have a style of play where you can get out of game-shape real fast if you take a couple of games off.”
The Mercury lead the WNBA in scoring, averaging 93.31 points. They’re also a solid rebounding team, an Achilles heal for Seattle, averaging 35.1.
I’m still getting to know Storm coach Brian Agler, but it appeared as if he was already seething at the thought of having to resign a loss due to an injury-depleted team. He signed point guard A’Quonesia Franklin to fill the void All-Star Sue Bird is creating tonight. Bird is out with a sore neck, missing her second consecutive game.
In the past, it has only taken Bird a few days to workout the kink. She underwent a MRI, finding no damage to the area, but is still walking around as if her head is in a brace.
“It’s a little sore,” Agler said of her injury.
He’ll move C Ashley Robinson and PG Shannon Johnson into the starting rotation, but plans to play new acquisitions La’Tangela Atkinson and Franklin by the second half to rest his team in preparation for the postseason.
Bird is questionable to play on Saturday in the season finale in San Antonio, but will travel with the team. F Lauren Jackson, who has two stress fractures in her lower back, will not make the trip. She’s expected to join the Storm on the road for Game 1 of the first round, but it remains uncertain if she’ll play.
F Swin Cash, who is dealing with the loss of her grandmother in Pennsylvania, will join the team on the road, also, for Game 1 while Gearlds will travel to San Antonio tomorrow. Her return is also uncertain for the postseason.
But it’s only Bird’s status that leaves Franklin in the air.
The diminutive guard was working as an administrative graduate assistant with her former Texas A&M;team before Agler called. Franklin said it was a tough decision to leave everything because of the commitment she made, but will return to the position next week.
“Hopefully I’ll get a look and at least get an invite for the upcoming season,” said Franklin, who was cut at the end of Storm training camp, but remembered the system.