The Storm lost its most coveted unrestricted free agent yesterday when forward Sheri Sam signed with the Charlotte Sting. Sam, who is currently...

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The Storm lost its most coveted unrestricted free agent yesterday when forward Sheri Sam signed with the Charlotte Sting.


Sam, who is currently playing in Russia, was free to sign with any team.

Last offseason, Sam was sought after by Storm coach Anne Donovan. The coach, who said her admiration of Sam’s play extended back to their days in the defunct ABL, held onto her sixth selection in the talent-loaded college/international draft until the Minnesota Lynx finally agreed to trade Sam and center Janell Burse for the pick and forward Amanda Lassiter.


Sam, 30, added veteran moxie to the locker room but was inconsistent on the court, averaging a career-low 9.1 points and 4.1 rebounds. Her struggles worsened during the championship run. She shot 26.3 percent in the three-game Finals series and missed a defensive coverage on Connecticut forward Nykesha Sales’ three-pointer at the buzzer of Game 2, which could have given the Sun the WNBA title. Instead, the ball pinged off the backboard, sending the series to a Game 3, which the Storm win.

As Sam struggled, forward Alicia Thompson improved her play, even replacing Sam in the starting lineup after the Olympic break. Guard Betty Lennox also filled in where Donovan expected Sam to provide critical offense, averaging 22.3 points in the Finals to win the MVP award.


Both Thompson and Lennox improved their priority among nine free agents the Storm had. Sam, one of three unrestricted free agents, wasn’t going to be prioritized for the money she was seeking, prompting her decision to leave.

While Donovan — who is also the team’s director of player personnel — said she made it clear she wanted to retain all of her players, she also knew this season’s $673,000 salary cap would make it difficult to pay Sam her desired $70,000 to $89,000 while paying maximum contracts ($89,000) to Olympians Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson and keeping Lennox.


The Storm has not signed any of its free agents, although all have received qualifying offers.

In a recent conversation, Donovan speculated about losing one or more of her unrestricted free agents due to the Storm’s inability to pay them competitive salaries. She said she’d use the April draft and possibly a trade to fill any holes created by players leaving.


Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com