Seattle coach Dan Hughes says facing the same opponent four games in a row creates unique challenges in preparation, but he’s intent on gleaning as much information as possible from the noon exhibition opener Tuesday.
Dan Hughes is more than a little annoyed that a scheduling quirk resulted in the Storm playing the Phoenix Mercury in its first four games — two in the exhibition season and two to start the regular season.
The first-year Seattle coach acknowledged facing the same opponent four games in a row creates unique challenges in preparation, but he’s intent on gleaning as much information as possible from the noon exhibition opener Tuesday at KeyArena.
With 13 players in training camp, Hughes’ first priority is to evenly distribute minutes while getting a look at his new team in gamelike conditions.
“Any time we go on the court we want to try to win, but not at the expense of some items and details,” Hughes said. “We only want to win meeting the criteria of what’s important for us to get accomplished.
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“It’s a tricky thing. And if it comes down to me playing players the right amount of minutes and it cost us a game, then it costs us a game. Ideally we’d like to do all of that and win.”
Forward Natasha Howard, whom the Storm acquired in an offseason trade with Minnesota, is expected to start alongside returning veterans Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Crystal Langhorne.
The starters played about 15 to 20 minutes during a scrimmage last Friday against the Chinese national women’s team and Hughes hopes to increase their minutes to 20 to 25 Tuesday.
“We want to create some chemistry with what we’re doing in practice,” Hughes said. “We’re not going to be overly tricky.”
Once the substitutions begin, Storm fans will get a glimpse of newcomers making their Seattle debut, including first-round draft choice Jordin Canada and forward Teanna Muldrow, taken in the third round.
“I’m just excited for the opportunity to play and get my rookie season started,” Canada said. “I just have to go out there and play my game. It doesn’t matter if it’s a preseason game or a regular game. I have to do what I do.
“And then as the games go on, continue to progress and see which ways I can change, whether it’s offensively or defensively.”
Canada, who is Bird’s backup, virtually is guaranteed a spot in the rotation. However, there are still plenty of questions regarding the other newcomers, including undrafted rookies Brittany McPhee, Emily Potter, Khaalia Hillsman and Aleksandra Crvendakic.
“There are some decisions that are coming in training camp because people are kind of stepping up and doing something,” Hughes said. “I’m probably going to create some time to watch them with the lights on and see what I see. There are some players stepping up and showing out a little bit. I want to see them now against another team.”
The Storm has 16 players on the roster, including three players — Alysha Clark, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Courtney Paris — who are not in training camp.
Clark could be available for the exhibition Saturday in Phoenix while Mosqueda-Lewis and Paris are playing overseas and might arrive after the season opener.
WNBA teams must reduce their roster to 12 players before 3 p.m. May 17.
“Is there opportunity? I would say yes, there’s opportunity,” Hughes said when asked how many roster spots are available. “There’s opportunity going right up to that final roster.
“There’s battles going on here and to put a number on it probably wouldn’t be accurate. There’s not a lot of spots, but there’s a couple.”