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May 4, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Live from training camp: “Fan Fest” open practice

It’s absolutely gorgeous outside in Seattle, slowly creeping toward 70 degrees. One of those days that the Storm has to battle all summer as far as pulling people into KeyArena after they’ve been chilling by the water or on a hiking trail all day, soaking in the longer days. Since it’s a new regime around here, I’m expecting fan fest to be pretty well attended. We’ll see. Either way, the team is already on the court for the “real” practice. Fans will be able to watch the latter part of the session when allowed into the facility at 2 p.m.
SWOOPES PRACTICING: F Sheryl Swoopes is on the court with the team. She suffered a strained neck against Sacramento on Friday. A X-ray taken Saturday was negative and she appeared fine. She’s being watched by her partner and son, who are again in town for the weekend.
SLICK HUSTLE: Not sure if I’ve seen Sonics legend Slick Watts move as quick as he did today to park his Benz and get down to the practice court to watch the Storm. “I’ve got to see this,” he said while walking down the ramp. Watts joked that he was going to be like Kevin Durant in that commercial where the ROY changes all of those jersey tops. Watts was layering his t-shirts, trying to find one long enough to cover the Sonics emblem on his pant leg.
FIVE-ON-FIVE: The Storm is playing full-court five-on-five without the men right now. Swoopes isn’t on the court now. The men are relaxed around the courtside seats waiting. Storm coach Brian Agler is still hammering in defense – a good thing. The Storm still looks a little shaky from the end that I can see. Understandable since players like Swin Cash and Kelly Santos just arrived. The team hired officials for today’s session, so fans may see a live scrimmage later.
MEN ON COURT: The male practice players are scrimmaging with the team. Jimmy Quigg suffered the first bloody nose of the season. In the past the men have suffered lost teeth and broken noses – most at the hand (elbow?) of F Lauren Jackson. But it was Ashley Robinson who made the first player-on-player hit. She banged G Kimberly Beck’s chin, reopening a gash she originally suffered against Rutgers during George Washington’s NCAA tourney run. Beck had to be re-stitched and wear a bandage.
SIT HERE: The Storm has white slips on some of the lower-bowl seats at KeyArena. Each is tagged with the cost of what it would be to own that location for 18 regular-season games and get playoff seating priority. One that I checked out behind the south end hoop where media sits would cost $828 for two. Only condition is that you can’t use those Thunderstix while seated there, they give me a headache (this is a joke of course).
FANS SPILLING IN: Fans have been allowed into the facility. They’re being kept to a designated area and its a modest stream of people so far. The team is wrapping up its scrimmage and will add four officials to the mix soon.
GIMMIE THE MIC: Agler is wearing a mic and talking to the team in a huddle. G Daphanie Kennedy is drawing applause with her shot but local product F Kristen O’Neill isn’t looking to good. Second-round draft pick Allie Quigley’s camp stock is also dropping due to her defense. Returnees A-Rob and F Shyra Ely are looking good, grabing rebounds and playing D like Agler wants. The team is playing against the men again.
GAME ON: The Storm is playing five-on-five, again. This time with officials. Beck, Quigley, KG, Ely and Santos are the black team while the twins (Roneeka Hodges and Doneeka Lewis), O’Neill, Natalie Doma, and A-Rob are the white squad. The green team (men) is being used sparingly and Kennedy is making subs for the black team. Vets Swoopes and Yolanda Griffith have been chatting on the sideline.
MAILBAG: A reader asked how Doma is looking and she’s really fighting out there. She’s on the court now and I like her aggressive nature under the hoop. She needs more reps and will probably have to play overseas for a year before breaking into the W. This training camp is about her making a name for herself for other teams, which she’s doing a great job of.
THANKS GUYS: The Storm just thanked the men for practicing with them, a ritual every year. The players are grabbing a quick drink of water, getting iced, and then Swoopes, the only player requested, will do a brief media session before talking to the fans. It’s a smaller crowd than last year’s open session at the Key (different than the Green Lake Fan Fest) and I’m guessing the sun after yesterday’s rainy, dark day is to blame. But assistant coach Shelley Patterson was impressed, later telling the crowd that more people attended this practice than the exhibition game in Chicago.
OLD TROT: The players are being introduced to the crowd and Cash and Yo are a trip. Cash ran the edge of the court to slap hands with cheering fans. Not to be out done, Yo did the same, waving giddily, but teased that she was winded afterward. Swoopes got the only standing ovation as she trotted around and up into the stands.
BURSE NOT RETURNING?: Just spoke with Agler and word doesn’t look good for C Janell Burse’s return. She was out with an undisclosed injury in Prague and Agler said he’d have an announcement in the next few days about her status. While budding on the court, Burse has had numerous shoulder and wrist injuries the past two years, choosing not to have surgery to rectify her shoulder but having successful wrist surgery in August.
MONEY ISSUES: G Tanisha Wright isn’t returning from play in Israel anytime soon. She’s having trouble getting her final paycheck from her team despite the fact that the team lost in its best-of-five championship series. Agler originally expected her back by Tuesday, but it looks like the end of the week.

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