The Storm will open its sixth season by hosting the Los Angeles Sparks on May 21 at KeyArena. The game will be aired on ABC (Channel 4) at 1 p.m. Before tipoff, the team's 2004...

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The Storm will open its sixth season by hosting the Los Angeles Sparks on May 21 at KeyArena. The game will be aired on ABC (Channel 4) at 1 p.m.



Before tipoff, the team’s 2004 WNBA championship banner will be raised and the players will receive their rings.



The Storm won’t play against Finals opponent Connecticut until June 7. That game, at the Sun’s arena, will be aired on ESPN2 at 5 p.m.



Six of Seattle’s 34 games are scheduled to air on national television, the most in franchise history.



“Opening the coming WNBA season in front of ABC’s national-television audience against Los Angeles is a tremendous way to start our 2005 campaign,” Storm coach Anne Donovan said in a release. “This is a great schedule for us, and the attention we’re receiving shows how popular the Storm has become.”



The Storm’s opening three games are at home, and the team has just two long road trips; both are four-game stints in June. Seattle plays two back-to-back sets and just one game at Sacramento, where it won for the first time last season after seven losses.



The odd setup of just three games each against Sacramento and Phoenix is because the Western Conference has seven teams. There are six teams in the Eastern Conference.



The schedule could also help the Storm generate a profit for the first time, with 10 weekend home games. The team has already sold 900 new season-ticket packages, bringing the total to more than 3,000. The Storm averaged 7,960 fans during the regular season last summer and 11,794 for five playoff games, including sellouts of 17,072 for two Finals games.



“Just like last year’s Finals, the Storm faithful are ready to bring their energy and enthusiasm back to the Key for this great schedule,” Karen Bryant, the team’s chief operating officer, said in the release.



While the opening-day matchup will feature reigning MVP Lisa Leslie of the Sparks, it’s still uncertain whether Storm All-Star Lauren Jackson will play. She underwent a series of ankle surgeries after returning to her native Australia in October and will not be back on the court until April.



According to her agent, Jackson’s foot is severely swollen and unable to fit in shoes. Jackson, the league’s leading scorer last summer (20.5), is on pace with her rehabilitation, however.



The WNBA draft is set for April, and training camp opens in May. Teams are currently talking about contracts with players. Free agents will be announced Jan. 15 and can be signed starting Feb. 1.



Storm forward Adia Barnes is the team’s only unrestricted free agent, and Olympian Sue Bird and forward Trina Frierson, who was injured for most of last summer, are the sole players under contract for the upcoming season. The remaining players, including Finals MVP Betty Lennox, are restricted free agents, meaning the Storm has the option to match any offer made by an opposing team.



Donovan said it would be difficult to fit the veteran-laden team under the $673,000 salary cap, but the team has been creative with contracts in the past.



The last day of the regular season will be Aug. 27. Last season, the WNBA took a month-long hiatus to accommodate its Olympians competing in the Athens Games. This season reflects a normal schedule, with the playoff run concluding in September.



The Storm’s exhibition schedule will be announced at a later date.



Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com