Seattle forward, five months after back surgery, breaks All-Star record with 22-point performance.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — It’s just an All-Star Game, they told her.
But Storm forward Swin Cash wasn’t rebuilt with an “All-Star” restrictor plate.
Five months removed from outpatient back surgery, she only knows the all-out warrior play denied her for more than two years because of a herniated disk in her lower back. So, she gathered the West All-Stars for some last-minute pointers and displayed the skills that have been missing too long, in a 130-118 West victory Saturday.
A 6-foot-1 forward, Cash was the leading scorer with an All-Star Game-record 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field. The previous high was 20 by Cash’s former Detroit teammate, Deanna Nolan, in 2005.
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Cash also had six rebounds and four assists and was named the game’s MVP — a first for a Storm player.
“I just bent over and said, ‘Thank you, God,’ ” said Cash of her quiet moment before being presented the award. “Then I started waving to everyone because everybody was in the crowd that for the last few years was with me at my lowest.”
A native of McKeesport, Pa., Cash was traded to Seattle in February 2008 because of her drop in play. She also had disagreements with former Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer, whose staff at times poked fun at her admittedly spacey play by referring to her as “crackhead.”
Only Cash wasn’t laughing.
She said she was quiet about her injury until the WNBA break for the Olympics last August, when she had one of three cortisone shots in order to continue playing. Still, Cash couldn’t sit on flights as the Storm traveled during its franchise-best 22-11 season.
Cash, 29, had surgery in March after briefly playing in the Czech Republic. While rehabilitating, she dealt with her brother allegedly being abused by police and a death in her family.
Returning to the All-Star Game in Connecticut was a reunion of sorts, close enough for family to visit and reconnect after off-court turmoil Cash mostly handled alone.
“It’s Swin Cash’s comeback year,” said Phoenix All-Star Diana Taurasi of the West. “To see her come back the way she has, we feel really good. Swin at one point was one of the most dominant players in this league, when you talk about numbers when she was with Detroit. Not being healthy and not being in the right situation, sometimes you get stuck in mud. Going to Seattle has given her this life.”
Cash set the tone by hitting a short jumper off a dish from Storm teammate Sue Bird. Cash scored eight points in the quarter as the West led 27-15.
An 11-1 run, keyed by two Cash free throws, stretched over the final two quarters snapped a 92-all tie. The West is 7-2 all-time in the midseason showcase.
“We were joking that we ran a couple of plays that were very UConn-ish,” said Bird, another Connecticut product. Bird finished with 13 points and a game-record 10 assists.
West coach Dan Hughes started all four former UConn players on his roster in the second quarter, to the delight of the sellout crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena. The proudest was Huskies coach Geno Auriemma, who treated the entire NCAA champion 2002 team to a spaghetti dinner at his lavish Manchester home on Friday.
“Sometimes injuries take a lot away from you and you never regain your form,” Auriemma said. “Swin’s actually a better player now than she was before she got hurt. I’m really proud of her, and I hope she understands that there’s a lot more in store for her.”
Like the second half of the WNBA season. And perhaps the 2012 Olympics.
Cash, who won gold in 2004, missed the 2008 Beijing Games due to her back, doing in-studio broadcasting work instead.
Auriemma is the new U.S. coach. Players are selected by a committee.
“Time will tell,”Auriemma said, “but if I have anything to say about it, Swin’s going to have an opportunity to play her way onto the team.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org