Alysha Clark, who helped the Storm win two WNBA championships in the past three seasons, is leaving Seattle and will sign with the Washington Mystics.
Considering her versatile skill set and championship pedigree, the 5-foot-11 guard, who is entering her 10th year and turns 34 in July, is one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents on the market, which opened Jan. 15.
WNBA teams can officially sign players on Monday.
Clark confirmed reports of her move, tweeting on Friday a farewell message to Seattle. “Thank you Seattle. I will forever cherish the memories I’ve been able to create there. I will forever love you.”
Clark had the most productive season of her career last year while averaging 10 points, 2.7 assists 1.5 steals and shooting 55.8% on field goals and 52.2% on three-pointers — all personal bests.
“My scoring, or however many points I get, has never been how I judge myself in this league,” said Clark, who twice led the NCAA in scoring in 2008-09 and 2009-10 while averaging 27.5 and 28.3 points, respectively, at Middle Tennessee. “In college, I was a low-post, back-to-the-basket player, but that wasn’t going to work in this league.
“So I had to find how I could fit. And defense became my thing. That’s how I could help my team. … Over the years I started gaining more confidence with my outside shot, but first and foremost, I’d consider myself a defensive player.”
Clark finished second to the Sparks’ Candace Parker in the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year award balloting to which is decided by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
She was the only unanimous choice to the WNBA All-Defensive first team that’s picked by the league’s 12 coaches. In 2019, Clark garnered all-defensive second-team honors.
Retaining Clark was going to be difficult for the Storm even though the WNBA salary cap rose to $1.3 million under the new collective bargaining agreement.
When the free-agent negotiation period began, the Storm designated 29-year-old Natasha Howard, the 2019 All-Star and defensive player of the league, as a core player.
The move gave the Storm exclusive negotiating rights with the seven-year veteran, who could make earn $221,000 next season.
According to Spotrac, the Storm has $786,000 tied up in eight players, not including Howard. That leaves it with roughly $514,000 to spend on free agents.
It’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that re-signing four-time WNBA champion Sue Bird is one of the team’s priorities. The 40-year-old point guard was the team’s highest-paid player last season. She earned a maximum salary of $215,000 and would likely command another max deal.
And Storm CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis also has to consider that whatever she does this year will impact key decisions next year when two-time WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart and two-time WNBA All-Star Jewell Loyd are up for contract extensions.
Even though Clark led the league in three-point shooting percentage the past two seasons and is regarded one of the league’s top defensive players, she’s been overlooked on a team that includes four WNBA All-Stars.
“She doesn’t get enough credit,” Loyd said in September. “She’s always doing the little things, getting open, getting rebounds. … She’s constantly getting overlooked, and she’s the heart to this team.”
Clark, who was drafted in the second round in 2009 by the San Antonio Silver Stars, got her start in the WNBA with the Storm in 2012 after accepting an invitation to training camp.
In 2019, the Storm voted Clark to its 20th anniversary team.
“It’s an honor to be included in that group of legendary women just knowing how my journey began with this team and how I had to get into this league,” Clark said at the time. “This franchise has had some remarkable players, and it’s humbling to be listed among them.”