Courtney Paris, the last player to arrive in training camp before the regular-season opener Sunday against Phoenix, made a promising first impression with the Storm.
Five days ago, Courtney Paris boarded a 20-hour flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to her home in Dallas where she had three days to relax before joining her new WNBA team in Seattle.
And there she was Wednesday afternoon, at the Storm practice on the Seattle Pacific University court, doing what she does best — grabbing rebounds and making life difficult for opposing players who ventured into the paint.
“First day here, we went a whole hour of scrimmaging and she went out and got it done,” guard Jewell Loyd said. “No complaining or anything. You wouldn’t have known that it was her first day. She’s good at working hard and good at bringing it every single time.”
Season opener, Phoenix @ Storm, 6 p.m., JOEtv
Paired with forwards Breanna Stewart, Natasha Howard, Aleksandra Crvendakic and rookie guard Jordin Canada, Paris, a 6-foot-4 and 250-pound center, made an immediate impact on the defensive end.
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“I came in for what would have been an open layup and her presence there made me shoot a floater,” Loyd said. “Things like that, you can’t measure.
“She’s a force to be reckoned with. When you go inside, be prepared for contact. … We’ve never really had a true 5 who loves to set screens, who loves to rebound and who loves the physical aspects of the game inside. So I’m really excited she’s here.”
Paris, the last player to arrive in training camp before the regular-season opener Sunday against Phoenix, made a promising first impression with the Storm. But truth be told, she’s no way near her best.
“I’m jet-lagged a little bit and it takes a few days to get over that so I’m struggling a little bit,” Paris said. “That’s just the life of women’s basketball.
“I’m one of those crazy people who really enjoys overseas basketball. This is a job you can’t do forever. Eventually the ball stops bouncing so I’m going to enjoy what I’m doing for as long as I can. But right now, it’s a little tough because I’ve got to get adjusted to Seattle and playing with new players in a new system.”
The terminology of plays might be different, but Paris’ role is the same it’s been since she entered the league in 2009 as the No. 7 overall draft choice.
Dan Hughes, in his first year coaching the Storm, said he hopes Paris, the WNBA rebounding leader in 2015 (9.3 a game) and 2014 (10.2), can help a Seattle team that ranked next to last in rebounding (31.0) last season.
“I love what she brings because I feel like it gives us a second dominant rebounder on the court,” Hughes said. “Early I’ve been able to appreciate just how good Stewie is down on the blocks, but we were still searching for a rebounding culture that we can play with and I wasn’t incredibly comfortable with what I was seeing before today.
“Just bringing somebody in that I feel can add to our rebounding culture, that is so important.”
Ever since Storm great Lauren Jackson retired following the 2012 season, Seattle has attempted — with varying results — to find a comparable defensive post.
Tina Thompson, a four-time WNBA champ and nine-time all-star, was past her prime when she played her final two seasons in Seattle in 2012 and 2013.
The Storm traded for Crystal Langhorne in 2014 and she’s been a remarkably consistent offensive threat inside the arc. However, the 6-2 and 185-pounder is an undersized rim protector.
Last year, the Storm essentially dealt its first-round choice for seven-year pro Carolyn Swords, but the 6-6 center averaged just 2.6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 8.7 minutes.
Seattle didn’t re-sign Swords and made Paris its first offseason acquisition.
Conceivably, the Storm has a player who’s big and strong enough to combat the WNBA’s elite post players such as Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles, Phoenix’s Brittany Griner, New York’s Tina Charles and Los Angeles’ Candace Parker.
“You don’t necessarily have to have a person like that, but you need an ability to deal with that person,” Hughes said. “I think Courtney helps us deal with that person. I think Stewie and some of the other players can do it, but they can’t do it for 40 minutes. It’s just not healthy.
“In Courtney’s case, she might give us some moments where we don’t have to scheme to deal with a big.”
It’s far-fetched to think Paris, who was limited to 20 games last season due to a knee injury while averaging 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds, is the missing championship piece for a Seattle team that’s lost in the first round of the playoffs the past two years.
However, Loyd said she believes otherwise.
“Where we’re trying to go, we need that little extra push,” Loyd said. “We need someone inside who brings a different mindset and a different strategy than we had before.
“I can honestly say, I’ve never played with anyone like her before and I feel like we now have enough to make this a special season.”
Paris is intrigued by the championship talk, but she tried to temper expectations.
“It’s Day 1 and you have to take steps,” she said. “This season is going to be a sprint and it starts Sunday. It’s coming up real fast, but it’s going to take time. I’m going to adjust as fast as I can. Everybody is learning a new system. I’m just excited to see where we go.”