Growing pains were evident during Sunday’s season-opening 96-66 defeat at Los Angeles. The Storm (0-1) return to action Friday at Phoenix (0-2).
Identity can be an elusive concept for young teams early in the season, which might explain why the Storm has differing opinions on its defining characteristics.
We asked players what they thought Seattle’s identity is, and their varied responses revealed a potential divide. It’s a refurbished team attempting to integrate a squad split between five veterans and seven newcomers with fewer than three years of WNBA experience.
“It wouldn’t necessarily surprise me to hear some differing opinions about our identity, because we haven’t talked a lot about that,” second-year coach Jenny Boucek said. “I don’t want to determine their identity. They have to grow up into it. I’m not trying to change people or this team. It’s still unfolding before us.
Storm @ Phoenix, 7 p.m.
“It’s like a baby. You don’t know how exactly they’re going to look like, how tall they’re going to be and what their exact gifts are going to be. You start to get a sense when they’re young, but it’s still part of the growth process.”
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The growing pains were evident during Sunday’s season-opening 96-66 defeat at Los Angeles. The Storm (0-1) will need to make drastic improvements to win Friday at Phoenix (0-2) and halt a nine-game losing streak to the Mercury.
Before addressing the “X’s and O’s,” Boucek said the Storm must get tougher. She also said it’s essential for players to develop trust among each other, which is an offshoot of believing in the system.
It’s a good message, but when the topic shifts to identity, Boucek is often as vague as her players.
“Believe it or not, a big part of our identity is youth, which coming from me is kind of funny,” said the 35-year-old Sue Bird, Seattle’s oldest player. “And pace. We’re going to be playing at a high pace. Youth and playing with pace and hopefully being exciting.”
Jewell Loyd added: “We’re young and focused. Obviously we have a lot of vets, but we’re definitely focused and motivated.”
A few Storm players cited a collective bond between players when asked about the team’s identity.
“Togetherness,” reserve forward Abby Bishop said. “We have a really good feeling within the group in terms of everybody playing together and enjoying each other’s company. And I think that plays onto the court.”
Backup center Markeisha Gatling added: “Quickness and togetherness.”
Breanna Stewart, the No. 1 overall draft pick in the WNBA draft, also picked up on the quickness angle.
“It’s hard for me to say, because this is all new to me and I haven’t (played) any of these teams in a real game,” she said before tallying 23 points, six rebounds and three assists against Los Angeles. “But we’re looking like we can get out and run. … And defensively, we’re a little undersized, so we’re going to have to scrap for everything.”
Meanwhile, veterans Crystal Langhorne and Monica Wright took a wait-and-see approach when asked about the Storm’s identity.
“Once we have our first couple of games, we’ll see,” Langhorne said. “I really can’t give an answer right now.”
Here’s what Boucek said when asked about Seattle’s identity: “I think it will be collectively a gritty group that collectively will have a high IQ and make high-percentage plays. We’re not there yet.
“The potential of this team is a group that wants to play together in a synergistic way offensively and defensively and make good decisions.”
Boucek was uncertain when her vision of the team might emerge.
“Maybe halfway through we should have a pretty good idea of who we are,” she said. “But we’re going to get tested early.
“We’re playing the top three teams in the league, arguably, off the bat. We’re going to get exposed and tested very early, and we got to handle things as well as we can.”