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May 2, 2010 at 12:43 PM

Game thread: Phoenix at Seattle exhibition

STORM WINS: Seattle ended the game with Wilson, Walker, Kurz, Parham, and Bowman. The players looked good together. Wilson is a step slower than Lacey and Kurz doesn’t hit shots consistently, so they’re still question marks after one exhibition game. Walker and Little share game MVP honors. Seattle won 77-58. It was a good crowd, but remember the first 3,000 at the season-opener on May 16 get a free “Bring It” shirt.
NEW LEAGUE: Saw this on the web. Apparently while the WNBA contracts, a new league thinks it can launch with a 28-game schedule with teams primarily in the South. Interesting.
SAY WHAT?: Bowman is the West Coast Conference’s all-time leading scorer, but she’s having trouble getting one to drop at KeyArena. She’s 0-for-3 from the field, making one of two FTs. One miss would have been a great hustle completion for Parham, who saved a ball from going out-of-bounds and threw it down court for a breakaway layin. Seattle leads 63-49 with 7:05 remaining in the game.
STAND UP!: Robinson and Walker got Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson to stand and cheer after plays to open the third quarter. Robinson is 3-for-5 from the field, making her free throws. Walker nailed another three-pointer. Offseason work is paying off for them. After a bucket by Little, the Storm leads 49-36.
LITTLE CHAT: Seattle U. coach Joan Bonvicini is here, too. Her Redhawks played at the Key once in her first season. Bonvicini pulled official Pantoja aside to say “Hello.” She coached Pantoja at Arizona back in the day (and I covered the team. Good times).
HALFTIME: Well, everyone got on the court that’s cleared to play Sunday. Wilson collected three quick fouls in six minutes, so while she was the most vocal leader in the backcourt, her impact was limited due to the calls. Parham had 13 minutes on the court and aside from a few defensive moves, didn’t stand out enough. Lacey got her three-pointer to drop; teammates Heather Bowman, Laura Kurz and Devanei Hampton are altering shots, but not grabbing enough boards. Seattle is up 37-34, but the lack of rebounding by the reserves has allowed the Mercury nine second-chance points.
SUBS IN: Former Roosevelt star Lindsey Wilson is running the point with Lacey and Aja Parham on the wings. Robinson and Little are inside. The lineup allowed Phoenix back in the game, but Seattle still leads 27-25 with 6:08 remaining in the second quarter.
LOOKING GOOD: The Storm did have a scrimmage against China’s national team, so it’s not surprising they’re looking good Sunday afternoon. Moore has a pair of questionable baseline passes that resulted in turnovers that give me pause; otherwise she looks like a solid choice for the backup PG role. Lacey has the body and made some nice plays to get teammates in position, yet there’s still a “deer-in-headlights” look to her that doesn’t work in the pros. Things move quick and she’s got to get comfortable, yesterday. Seattle is shooting 53.3 percent from the field, led by Walker (10 points). Storm up 18-12 at the end of the first quarter.
SHOOTING THREES?: Walker started the scoring with a three-pointer, a rarity added to her game. She was 1-for-6 from that range in 13 appearances as a rookie. Agler said her transition to the wing from power forward is still a process, but she’s looking good against an inexperienced Mercury roster. Walker later scored on three consecutive baskets, all layins, to help the Storm take a 14-5 lead with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.
NEW UNIS: The Storm aren’t the only ones with a tweaked look this summer. WNBA officials also have new uniforms that look like the NBA refs — only the WNBA version has orange coloring on the shoulders and cream colored chest. It’s supposed to resemble the league’s ball, which has the same coloring scheme. I’m just happy the WNBA finally broke away from NCAA ball and has its own look.
SPOTTED: Former Washington assistant coach Judy Spoelstra is here with her son. She stopped by press row to say “Hello,” but nothing more. I’ll keep trying to grab her at a less public place to find out if the Air Force rumors are true. Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves and assistant Jodie Kaczor Berry are also in attendance. They are watching Storm F Heather Bowman.
There’s a good vibe around KeyArena as the Storm prepares for their exhibition debut against Phoenix. Players are on the court with their new warm-up tops that display Bing on the back.
The search-engine created by Microsoft purchased the advertisement space, making Seattle the third team in the WNBA to secure the marquee sponsorship. But while it helps with the team’s longevity, it’s not going to help the Storm win a championship.
That could be decided by the 10 players on the court today. Storm coach Brian Agler, who’s also director of player personnel, is in search of a talented bench. He had four players in F Katie Gearlds (injury), PG Shannon Johnson (retirement), C Janell Burse (rest), and C Suzy Batkovic-Brown (marriage) opt not to return this summer. Johnson retired in 2009.
While there are still more players to arrive, Agler has plenty of possibilities to evaluate with his staff Sunday afternoon. He plans to run several rotations to not only see how players react together, but see how they may mesh with the returnees.
Some bubble players who really need to make a mark are C Ashley Robinson and F Ashley Walker. Both were on the roster last season and have great chemistry with the core players, but needed to improve their game in order to return.
It’s just one game, but if either looks bad, my guess is the Storm staff would start to look elsewhere for that deep bench player. Australian star Lauren Jackson is here and she’s already boasting about F Abby Bishop, who could slip onto the team. Agler already said she’s a wildcard, liking what he previously saw but not really knowing what to expect at training camp.
Phoenix, the defending WNBA champs, only traveled eight players, still waiting for their stars to return. F Candice Dupree is one of three players on the traveling roster with a contract. The remaining are trying to make their roster.
“The rookies ask me a lot of questions, being new,” said Dupree, who is happy her request to be traded from Chicago landed her on the Mercury roster. “Some of it I can answer and some of it I can’t.”
Well, the Storm has questions of their own that can only be answered on the court. So, let’s get to it with your starting lineups:
F Candice Dupree
F Nyeshia Stevenson
C Brooke Smith
G Tyra Grant
G Ketia Swanier
F Camille Little
F Ashley Walker
C Ashley Robinson
G Loree Moore
G Alison Lacey
Today’s officials are Clarke Stevens, Penny Davis, and Brenda Pantoja.



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