No. 1 draft pick Stewart to make WNBA debut vs. Mercury

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Soon enough the Storm will need to address its nine straight losses to Phoenix, including last year’s four-game sweep in the regular season.

But Seattle coach Jenny Boucek said Wednesday’s 11:30 a.m exhibition opener at KeyArena isn’t the time to settle an old score against the Mercury.

“We can’t afford to play it as a normal game with all of the things that we need to learn,” she said. “There will be certain players that play certain quarters, then we’ll shut them down. It’s going to be very obvious.”


Storm vs. Phoenix, 11:30 a.m., KeyArena

Less than two weeks remain before the May 15 regular-season opener at Los Angeles, and the WNBA allows for just two exhibitions. Seattle travels to Phoenix on Sunday for a rematch in its preseason finale.

Since training camp began April 24, the Storm has had eight practices. That’s not a lot of time to integrate 12 returners from last year’s team that finished 10-24 with four newcomers — notably No. 1 overall draft pick Breanna Stewart.

Here are five topics the Storm will need to address:

Establish Stewart

The sooner the Storm understands how Stewart, a 6-foot-4 budding superstar, impacts the game the sooner Seattle will end its two-year playoff drought.

Still, Boucek cautioned that successfully incorporating the much-hyped rookie into the schemes might take time because she’s a multi-faceted player who can affect the game at both ends.

A year ago, Jewell Loyd, Seattle’s first-round pick and No. 1 overall selection, struggled to adapt to the pro game and the Storm mirrored her struggles.

Develop an identity

“We play a style that’s very synergistic both offensively and defensively, and that takes longer,” Boucek said. “That’s why some coaches choose not to do it. Sometimes it’s even multi-year, but that’s what we committed to. So it takes time.”

The Storm ranked next to last in WNBA scoring, averaging 70.4 points per game, and Boucek believes Seattle should be better offensively because of the influx of talent and holdovers being more familiar with the schemes.

Determine the roster and rotations

The projected starting lineup includes: 14-year veteran Sue Bird, Loyd, Stewart, forward Alysha Clark and center Crystal Langhorne.

But the rotation is murky, due to the absence of Quanitra Hollingsworth, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Jenna O’Hea, who are overseas playing in postseason games.

Boucek expects them to return before the regular-season opener, but the Storm will likely reduce its 16-player training-camp roster to 12 before they come back.

Conceivably, the Storm will need to release five players over the next week.

Get Bird on track

One subplot is determining whether Bird’s shot is irrevocably broken or if the past two years were an aberration. She shot 38.4 percent from the field and just 30.1 percent (25 of 83) on three-pointers last season – both career lows.

The 35-year-old future Hall of Famer is still one of the league’s top point guards, averaging 12.3 points and 5.4 assists last season. But she’ll be compromised if her perimeter shooting doesn’t improve.

Find other scoring options

At times last season, the Storm had difficulty scoring because it didn’t have many mismatches on the offensive end. Stewart should change some of that.

Loyd, last season’s Rookie of the Year winner, is poised to build on a season in which she was second on the team averaging 10.7 points.

Boucek prefers a free-flowing offense, so it remains to be seen how second-year forward Ramu Tokashiki, Clark and Monica Wright, who makes her Storm debut after siting out last season due to a knee injury, fit into the offensive pecking order.