The last 48 hours of Storm training camp, which ends Thursday, is always the hardest. It’s filled with a handful of difficult roster decisions, joyous celebrations and tearful goodbyes.
It’s a time when one player’s hopes of making a WNBA team are fulfilled and someone else’s dreams are dashed — at least for now.
“They’re awful,” coach Dan Hughes said Tuesday during a Zoom interview. “As excited as I am about the season starting and excited as I am as we add players back in our mix, I have never – and I’ve done this for over 20 years – I’ve never (had) very good days when I have to bring somebody in who has given us exactly as much as they probably could, and then I got to say thanks but no thanks to them being on the roster.
“It’s hard and it’s something that I’ve never gotten better at doing or at least feeling like I’ve done this before. It’s just as fresh as 20 years ago. A lot of times you’re cutting somebody that you would honestly like to coach longer. I’ve never found an easy way to do it, but that’s OK if you really think about it. I don’t ever want to get to the point that this is easy. If I do then I need to be home with my grandkids.”
Following Tuesday’s practice, the Storm waived veteran forward Tamera Young and rookie center Natalie Kucowski, which trims the training-camp roster to 14 players – one fewer than the WNBA limit.
On Monday, Seattle released guards Brittany Brown and Peyton Williams, which cleared room to bring in Breanna Stewart, Katie Lou Samuelson and Mikiah “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan.
“We added Stewie on Tuesday, Katie Lou will do some things (Wednesday) and then Kiki on Thursday,” Hughes said. “It’s kind of coming together at the end.”
The Storm is still missing guard Epiphanny Prince and center Mercedes Russell, who wrapped up their seasons with the Turkish team Galatasaray on Tuesday following a 2-1 loss in the EuroLeague Women finals.
The two reserves who helped Seattle to a WNBA championship last year will not be available for Saturday’s opener against the Las Vegas Aces, which potentially opens spots on the roster.
Opening-day rosters must have 11-12 players before Thursday’s 2 p.m. PT deadline and teams must remain below the $1.3 million salary cap. The Storm could apply for a hardship or a temporary suspension, which would use it to add an additional player.
However, the “suspended” player’s salary still counts against the cap, which makes this option unlikely for Seattle considering it has a projected salary cap of $1.26 million, according to Herhoopstats.
It’s looking as if the Storm will start the season shorthanded while waiting for Prince and Russell to rejoin the team in a week or so.
“We typically try to work with players a little bit on the return so that they can get back into a rhythm of being back here in the States,” Hughes said. “What that means, I really don’t know with it being so close to the season. (General manager Talisa Rhea) will have that conversation with them and work it out. Hopefully they get here sooner rather than later, but we’re usually a little bit respectful of the situation that they’re in and knowing we have to speed everything up.”
Assuming newcomers Kennedy Burke, Samuelson and Herbert Harrigan are locks to make the roster considering the Storm acquired them in offseason trades, Seattle has just one vacancy on the roster.
Hughes said it’s unlikely the Storm will add anyone from another team who gets cut this week, so conceivably the final spot on the roster will go to Kikija Laksa, Kiana Williams, Haley Gorecki, Stephanie Talbot or N’dea Jones.
“To be honest with you, this was one of the best camps I’ve ever been involved with in 20 years,” Hughes said. “People have made a strong case to be a part of us, and we’ll have to make some very hard choices.
“Even if we can’t keep them, I want them to have had an experience that was worth their investment to us. We’ve had several players play very well and make a case for themselves. Those are the hard decisions that you hope a training camp brings.”