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September 16, 2008 at 10:28 PM

Swoopes, Cash practice and L.A. plans attack

Storm forwards Sheryl Swoopes and Swin Cash returned to practice today for the first time since Sept. 6 when Swoopes suffered a concussion against Minnesota and Cash had a lower back flare up. Swoopes’ headaches are gone and coach Brian Agler said she’s moving toward returning to the lineup for Game 1 against Los Angeles on Friday.
Cash said she needs to speak with her family and agent before making a decision about her back. Like Lauren Jackson, who needed surgery on her right ankle after a bone spur chipped from an awkward landing on a layup, Cash is thinking about her long-term career in basketball when deciding what to do about her back. She wouldn’t even say that she’d play if the postseason began Wednesday. But I took a risk and put her in our matchup lineup against the Sparks because I know she’s been working hard to be there for the Storm. Cash is the team’s third-leading scorer (11.3) and one of the better perimeter defenders along with Swoopes.
But Agler won’t start both, sticking with SG Tanisha Wright. He said this wasn’t his plan to begin the season – slowly bringing Wright along before putting her in the lineup with PG Sue Bird in the backcourt. In fact, he never imagined the Storm going through so many injures (who does?), which ultimately put Wright in the starting lineup to begin with.
If Swoopes and Cash are healthy, Agler said he would mull over starting one of them or Katie Gearlds at small forward. My guess is he goes with the strongest defender because one of the keys is going to be perimeter defense to keep the ball out of the Olympic trio frontcourt’s hands.
And speaking of that Olympic trio, Lisa Leslie held a team meeting with the Sparks today. One of the topics was L.A. not having homecourt advantage. “I’d be scared to play us here [at KeyArena] if I was anybody else,” said Storm center Ashley Robinson, whose team was a franchise-best 16-1 at home. Games 2 and 3, is needed, are in Seattle.
But Leslie had some sage words for her team, which is 9-7 during the regular season against the Storm at KeyArena, 1-1 during the postseason.
“She said it could be a blessing in disguise,” Sparks forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said. “When our backs are to the wall, that’s when we always come to play. On the road, it’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be potholes, bumps, and everything else, but that’s when we need to come together as a team.”
Milton-Jones said the Atlanta loss on Sept. 11 shook the team, again, and everyone is back on the same page. While the Storm didn’t play normal rotations or have their starters for majority of the game during the season final between Seattle and L.A. on Sunday, the Sparks were trying to make a point for themselves. Milton-Jones expects that level of play to be even greater on Friday.



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