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May 21, 2009 at 4:55 PM

Game thread: Storm versus Sacramento

STORM WINS: There was a solid, enthusiastic crowd on hand to see the Storm win 64-55. Agler has some tough decisions. Beck, Freshour, and Terry played the least minutes of the newbies, but media was told that’s not the gauge. I still think Beck and Freshour are on the bubble. They’re good, but if you know Atkinson and Franklin are better, why waste their time? The posts are harder because they all bring something to the table. Terry was better in practice, however.
QUESTION: Is it a requirement for everyone who wears the Storm’s No. 22 to be an exciting player? First Betty Lennox, then Swoopes and now Atkinson.
MINOR BUMPS: Both Franklin and Beck, who originally entered the game for Franklin, suffered minor bumps after collisions. Both appear to be fine. Storm is ahead 59-49 with 5:00 remaining in the game.
TOUGH CUTS: Kimberly Beck, Mara Freshour, and Kasha Terry haven’t entered the game, yet, but cuts are going to be real tough. Franklin and Atkinson have a slight advantage because they are former Monarchs players, but the Storm looks good. maybe it’s because starters are in camp early, but it’s the best exhibition game I’ve seen them play. Not the “chaos” predicted by Bird. Team has eights assists on 13 made shots, is outscoring the Monarchs 18-10 inside and have five blocks at the break. Three-point shooting is poor (1 of 8) and they are getting outrebounded 16-10 by Sacramento. On the Monarchs side, Powell leads with 15 points, shooting a perfect 4 of 4 from the field. Paris has a team-leading four boards.
NICE FINISH: Bird mentioned Franklin’s quickness and she went all Tyus Edney at the end of the half, racing down court with about three seconds on the clock, dishing to Burse, who made the layin as the horn sounded. Seattle took a 34-33 lead into the break.
PURPLE MONSTER: The Monarchs could be really good this season. The West plays each other four times, so everyone appears to have an equal shot at reaching the WNBA Finals. The Monarchs have eight players from their 2005 championship team on their roster and just need DeMya Walker and Rebekkah Brunson to get healthy to really battle against favorites like Seattle, LA, and San Antonio. Storm leads 32-31 with 1:16 remaining in the half.
TWITTER: @SwinCash is tweeting during the game — gasp! OK, so she’s on the bench in street clothes, but still.
WALK THIS WAY: Walker had a sweet game at Cal and she’s bringing it tonight. She’s deflected three passes in the second quarter alone, helping the Storm take a 27-24 lead off a jumper from Aja Parham.
TIE GAME: Johnson gave the Storm a 23-22 lead on a fast break layin off a feed from Atkinson with 7:42 remaining in the first half.
END OF FIRST: Sacramento is up 20-15 after a buzzer beater by Penicheiro. The bucket killed the buzz of some nice interior plays by Burse to make the score close. Franklin, who played for the Monarchs last season, is looking good along with Walker and Atkinson. We don’t have stats (it’s the first game), so I can’t tell you how good just yet. UPDATE: Burse is the leading scorer with six and the Storm has five assists on seven shot attempts. Both teams shot 50 percent, the different being the Monarch’s three-point shooting (4 of 5). Seattle had issues guarding the perimeter last season, let’s hope that doesn’t carry over.
CP3 IN: Walker and Paris had their first tussle as pros and it resulted in a jump ball with 6:01 remaining. Walker got the tip, but Seattle couldn’t convert. The second matchup was a Paris put back to put the Monarchs up 12-6 with 4:52 remaining.
WALKER IN: Little is getting the crowd going with some good defense, but rookie Walker just checked in for Burse. Sacramento is up 10-4 behind two nice three-pointers by Powell. Storm still needs to learn to guard her.
NEW GEAR: Should mention that the Storm changed its shooting shirts to emerald green. The Monarchs’ look the same as last season.
GAMEPLAN: Look for rookie Ashley Walker and training camp invitees La’Tangela Atkinson and A’Quonesia Franklin to be the first off the bench tonight. Agler said minutes played doesn’t equate who gets cut, but the game does carry most of the weight in evaluations.
CASH RETURN: Cash finally made it to Seattle today, leaving her Pittsburgh home on Monday. Guess the Pacific Northwest is far away. Really, she suffered through several canceled flights. In March, Cash had outpatient back surgery. She was cleared to participate in training camp on Monday, but not in contact drills. She’ll slowly be worked into the rotation. It could be a week before she’s allowed to go full speed and she’s uncertain if she’ll return home for another evaluation. “I have to build my stamina, cardio back up before I can actually get in there and go five-on-five,” Cash said. “I’ve been able to put weight on, which is good. I’ve been able to get in the gym and work with the weights and do cardio, but not impact. I’ve been in the pool doing treadmill running and boxing, which was great.” As expected, Cash is antsy to return to the court. “I am,” she said. “Right now, I want to play basketball because I haven’t played in so long. Because you feel good, you think you can just jump in there and play. You have to do the right things or else. It was my back this time, but if I don’t build myself up, another muscle could compensate and I might hurt something else. You don’t want to do that. I don’t want to set myself back because I felt I’ve made great strides and great progress.”
HOOPS CHATTER: Scorekeeper Bill Olden stopped by with jokes, “Have you been sitting here since September?” He has worked the stats for the Sonics for 40 years and we’ve both been with the Storm since their inception in 2000. He said he went through withdrawal over the winter. The worst, apparently, was felt by his wife who enjoyed having him away for 41 nights. “She wanted me to get a job delivering pizza at night so she could have control of the remote,” he said with a laugh. A lot of other employees, who used to work for both sides, are debating about whether a NBA team would return if the place was renovated. Consensus? No.
Back at KeyArena for another season. I still know the gatekeepers, who are employed by Seattle Center and therefore not affected by the Sonics’ departure, so I was able to slip in as usual without any changes.
But there are plenty of tweaks awaiting fans for tonight’s exhibition opener against Sacramento. Courtside folks will be greeted by a wall of nicely framed photos of the ownership group, Force 10 Hoops, F Lauren Jackson holding her MVP trophy, a championship picture, PG Sue Bird on draft day, and inaugural coach Lin Dunn.
Since the Team Shop is closed, the Storm setup a merchandise-area outside of the doors that originally served as a passageway in between the store and arena. The sweetest change (for me) is HD flat screen monitors for media. I’m watching ESPN now (some feature on LeBron James and Kobe Bryant’s personal lives).
I may not need my glasses this season. For so long (and through so many owners), the Sonics never changed the raggedy screens we depend on for stats (OK, we watched a few games and Obama speeches, too). So, I have to thank Force 10 Hoops for giving a nod to us. It’s not a media guide or an iPhone, which the entire coaching staff was outfitted with, but I’ll take it.
On the 10th anniversary note, the Storm is going to select an all-decade team. I’ll have my picks later. I know three, but I wouldn’t put Swin Cash or Sheryl Swoopes on it simply because they didn’t do anything on the court for Seattle. And of course I have a gripe, the team is limiting your selections to 24 players. Anyway, there are also supposed to be a few more surprises, but I didn’t spot them in my early snooping.
It’s another gorgeous day in Seattle — about 70 degrees. I’m guessing the Storm will still draw well, considering it’s an exhibition game. Seattle isn’t reporting any injuries and should play well to start due to starting five proven veterans.
Bird won’t play, however. She’s going to rotate throughout the arena greeting fans. Cash is supposed to do the same, arriving today after flight complications.
Let’s get to it.
Here are your starting lineups:
MONARCHS
F Nicole Powell
F Crystal Kelly
C DeMya Walker
G Ticha Penicheiro
G Scholanda Robinson
STORM
F Ashley Robinson
F Camille Little
C Janell Burse
G Shannon Johnson
G Katie Gearlds
Tonight’s officials are Scott Twardoski, Penny Davis, and Maj Forsberg.

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