Storm players listened at practice Monday as coach Brian Agler explained his defensive strategy for the season. The lanes to deny, the tricks to prevent fouls and the spots on the court to force players into tough shots were all broken down.
“Because only a few post players can make this shot,” Agler said of his reasoning. “And you’re one of them.”
He pointed at forward Crystal Langhorne. Langhorne, a two-time all-star, is the newest addition to the Storm. She was acquired on draft day from Washington in a trade for Seattle’s past two first-round picks, forward Tianna Hawkins (2013) and guard Bria Hartley (2014).
The plan is for Langhorne to replace veteran Tina Thompson, who retired in September after 17 seasons, winning four championships with the defunct Houston Comets. The league’s all-time leader in points scored (7,488), Thompson unexpectedly started at power forward last season due to a hamstring injury to franchise center Lauren Jackson.
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Jackson, a three-time MVP, will miss a second straight season, due to a knee injury suffered in China this winter. The loss sent Seattle scrambling for someone to play alongside forward Camille Little.
Agler, also the team’s general manager, didn’t have much success during free agency, leaving center Angel Robinson as the initial plan.
Robinson, who is 6 feet 5, was drafted in 2010, but hadn’t landed a WNBA contract. She’s played the past four years in Spain.
Enter Langhorne in a complicated draft-day deal.
“You can’t put a price tag on a veteran player — the experience and her knowing the tricks of the trade,” Agler said. “Obviously, there’s things that we do that are new for her, but there are little subtle things that she does out there that shows her experience.”
Langhorne’s instinct could be spotted immediately Monday. She’s a known rebounder, averaging 7.1 since being drafted sixth overall by Washington in 2008. Equally impressive, she’s a career 55.8 percent shooter.
Seattle has struggled rebounding since its championship season in 2010 when it had Jackson, 6-6, for a full season. The Storm ranked last in the league in rebounding last year (30.2) with undersized post players Little (6-2) and Thompson (6-2).
Langhorne isn’t any bigger at 6-2, but she has big hands.
“She plays bigger than what she physically is,” said wing Noelle Quinn, who played a season in Washington with Langhorne. “She plays about 6-5 as far as her strength and rebounding. ”
Langhorne said the first two days have been hard, but a good start to the season. The first test will be in a closed scrimmage Saturday against the Australian national team.
Seattle plays one exhibition game, May 11 against Los Angeles at KeyArena.
“(Agler) has a few different techniques on how to play in the post, so I’m going to adjust to that,” Langhorne said.
“But I don’t feel odd here, which I thought I might. I’m comfortable and feel I can help them improve on (rebounding) and becoming a better team.”
• Robinson could arrive at training camp early next week. She was playing in Spain.