Storm coach Anne Donovan wore a look of concern. The defending WNBA champion opened training camp on Monday, with the first practice session...
Storm coach Anne Donovan wore a look of concern.
The defending WNBA champion opened training camp on Monday, with the first practice session really scheduled to shake off new-season jitters. The practice yesterday afternoon was the first true look at the squad, and the view was hazy.
With three of the top players from the 2004 team lost to free agency and point guard Sue Bird playing overseas, the Storm lacked leadership and standout talent.
“[It was] rough around the edges,” Donovan said of the approximately two-hour practice, which was followed by another closed workout last night. “It’s just difficult without a point guard in camp that’s got any experience, and still trying to figure out the three (small forward) and the five (center) hole is challenging. The difficult part is trying to initiate offenses with no real coaching players on the floor.”
The Storm has 14 players at training camp, with four other players currently overseas. Two players in camp are limited by health issues — forward Trina Frierson is returning from left knee surgery, and All-Star forward Lauren Jackson could participate in just 75 minutes of practice as she recovers from reconstructive surgery on her right ankle.
That left Storm returnees Betty Lennox, Janell Burse and Alicia Thompson to guide nine newcomers. After practice, which ended about 45 minutes early, the players had a somber vibe.
May 7: Seattle at New York,
May 14: Sacramento at Seattle, 7 p.m.
First regular-season game
May 21: Los Angeles at Seattle, 1 p.m.
Johnson is one of the league’s original players. Signed originally by Cleveland in 1997, Johnson also played for the Orlando/Connecticut franchise. The Sun cut her last summer, however, and Johnson spent the offseason working toward a comeback after knee surgery in February 2004.
Although Donovan believes Johnson, 31, could contribute to the Storm, Johnson is the type of player the coach said would have trouble finding a roster spot as the league develops.
“The difference that you do find is that every year the players are better and you still have to be on top of your game,” Johnson said. “You have to be healthy, you have to be in shape. But I’m hoping my edge will be that I am a veteran. If I can use past experience to get me through, then that’ll be good.”
Donovan wants her veteran players to make an impact vocally. The coaching staff tried to implement some transition offense yesterday, but Donovan discovered how much she relies on Bird to extend the coaching on the floor.
“We do have a leadership void,” Donovan said. “Betty has been working hard to step in and give us some of that. Lauren, when she’s been on the floor, has been good. But there’s still a void without Sue here.”
Bird is expected to meet the team in New York around May 6. The Storm plays the New York Liberty in an exhibition game on May 7.
The Storm hasn’t begun seriously evaluating players yet. Training-camp rosters can have 18 players, but they must be trimmed to 15 by May 3 and to 11, with a maximum of two players on injured reserve, by May 20.
Donovan said she’s far enough under the salary cap to keep 12 players on the active roster, as she did last season.
• Lennox has joined forward Adia Barnes and center Simone Edwards in establishing her own foundation. The Finals MVP started the Lennox 22 Foundation in February and is still organizing its purpose. Lennox does know it will help underprivileged children.
• Jackson normally returns after the offseason with a new hairdo, but that isn’t the case this season. She is still a bleached blond, only you wouldn’t know it from the Storm van tooling around town.
The marketing vehicle is painted with images of Bird and Jackson — circa 2002. Good for Bird, who hasn’t changed her look since the eighth grade. Bad for Jackson, who is campaigning for a new paint job.
“They need to change that,” Jackson said. “That’s the breaking news. I’m not happy with that photo.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org