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February 9, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Swoopes shares more about being waived by Storm

Swoopes.jpgThe call came at 10 p.m. on Jan. 31. Glorified shooter/defender Sheryl Swoopes (pictured right) had just wrapped up a day of representing the Storm at a Washington-Arizona State basketball game when coach Brian Agler, who is also director of player personnel, phoned to say she’d been cut. In a statement, Agler said the move was to clear cap space. Swoopes’ max contract would have become guaranteed on Feb. 1.
“I definitely didn’t expect it,” said Swoopes, who averaged 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Storm in 2008, struggling through various injuries after October 2007 back surgery. “I saw [Storm CEO] Karen Bryant earlier at the game and then I found out Brian was there. The fact that they didn’t say anything then…I got a phone call and I said, ‘OK, thank you.’ And that’s the last I’ve heard from them.”
Swoopes represented the organization the past four months at everything from parades to the ballet. She’s also a regular at UW basketball games, befriending coach Tia Jackson and the team. Jackson, Swoopes and some Husky alums even play pick-up on free Sundays at the arena.
“I felt as if I was being very loyal to the organization,” said Swoopes, who relocated to Kirkland from Houston where she helped the defunct Comets win four championships. “I thought they were being loyal to me. Had I thought that I would have only been in Seattle for one season, I never would have moved my family here and made Seattle my home. I was under the impression that, unless there was some unforeseen incident or I couldn’t walk or play, I would be playing here.”
The “unforeseen incident” may have been the WNBA reducing roster sizes from 13 to 11. Teams don’t have to be more frugal since the salary cap remains $803,000. But the veteran max for a player of six seasons or more returning to their original team is a stiff $99,500. With two less spaces, organizations have to be more prudent about who they sign in addition to pay and what that player can give them consistently in return.
Swoopes, 37, offers a lot, yet was not reliable last season. She’s worked this offseason to be better than last summer — expected since it was her first off surgery and she only played three games in 2007. But could the Storm run the risk with just 11 spots?
Add that Storm PF Lauren Jackson is still a dangling carrot on a stick and Seattle is in a bigger lurch. Yet, Swoopes believes the Storm could have made the decision to cut her sooner, especially since they knew Jackson was going to take her time to at least publicly decide whether she’s returning.
“I feel healthier now than I have in two years,” said Swoopes, a three-time MVP. “That’s what frustrates me the most — I wasn’t given that opportunity to come back and show them everything that I can bring to the team. But I’m not retiring. I don’t want someone else to tell me that I have to retire.
“Had I been released earlier, I would have had a great chance of making and being on another team. The fact that it was done at the last possible minute, I think there is a possibility that [the roster cuts] could hurt my chances simply because all of the teams that had money and are good enough to compete have gone out and found free agents and spent good money. I don’t want to play just to play. But at this point, all I want is an opportunity to go to someone’s training camp.”
Swoopes’ agent is talking to a few teams, but no specific comment was made regarding whether anyone would pick-up the unrestricted free agent. If not, it’s a shame that the WNBA’s first face isn’t given the same type of blowout send-off like Los Angeles center Lisa Leslie, who announced last week her plan to retire after the 2009 season.. After Swoopes faxed to then-president Val Ackerman her intent to play in the WNBA, Leslie and Rebecca Lobo signed to be the first players allocated to the eight charter teams.
Seattle as a city may not even be able to hang onto Swoopes, whose waiver release was a basic post on the WNBA transaction page without any notification to media by the Storm. She’s coaching a middle-school team, but their season ends Thursday. She’s not going to uproot her son from school (plus he loves Seattle), yet needs employment along with nearly everyone else.
Swoopes is active in the community and is looking to start a basketball academy here, but doesn’t want her name attached to something she’s not fully involved with if playing elsewhere this summer. She’ll host a boys and girls basketball clinic at The Overlake School on Feb. 17 and 18 and coach Tia Jackson said the player is welcomed to stop by practice anytime.
“I’ll be here for a while,” Swoopes said. “People have been very supportive.”

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