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December 8, 2008 at 10:57 AM

Storm passes in Houston Comets dispersal draft

The day I received a text regarding the Houston Comets folding last week I was notified I’d be stuck in the city’s airport, unable to make my connection to Seattle from vacationing in St. Thomas. “I’m always in Houston!” I griped to one of my friends on the trip. Well, not anymore.
It was a creeping feeling over the summer that the Comets would dissolve and I thought then it was shameful for the league front offices to let a storied franchise fold. Especially with ESPN buying the broadcasting rights for a reported $30 million, which will be dispersed between the teams. It seemed if the WNBA was truly close in finalizing a deal with new ownership with deeper pockets, the ESPN money could be used as a short-term Band-aid to keep the dynasty alive.
Yet, as the league looks to strengthen itself, it’s for the best it finds solid owners and not waste any money that could help stabilize other teams. Look around at the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB and all of those leagues have had teams relocate or fold within the last few decades, too. It’s part of sport.
The Comets will be missed. I’ve seen the fans cheer wildly for the mascots and cheerleaders when spotted in different parades, restaurants were full of fans wearing jerseys on game days, and even though Reliant Arena needed some work, watching Tina Thompson complete her final warm-up with shouts of “Go Tina!” or “Hurt ’em tonight Tina” peppering her from around the arena was special.
If another owner is found, the Comets fans will return. But for now it’s best the WNBA focus on what is working in order to secure its future.
WNBA president Donna Orender continues to say her office receives calls about possible expansion, but “there’s nothing new to report” in terms of it actually happening. Instead, the league had the dispersal draft today where seven of the nine eligible Comets players were selected. The Storm, left with a choice between guards Shannon Johnson and Tamecka Dixon, opted to pass.
Seattle is in the market for a backup point guard, but I’m still hearing that former Storm guard Tully Bevilaqua is interested in returning. A starter for Indiana, she’s an unrestricted free agent. Coach Brian Agler, who is also director of player personnel, said he wanted a vet and didn’t object to a former face making a comeback.
Free agency doesn’t begin until Dec. 15. In addition to Australian star Lauren Jackson, Thompson could be another hot commodity. Her agent couldn’t be reached, yet word is she’s going to retire. Guess it’s fitting. Like Jackson in Seattle, it’s hard to imagine Thompson playing anywhere else in the WNBA.
Perhaps if the Comets return in 2010, as Orender hinted, Thompson will, too. She always made the trip to Houston worth it.



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