The Storm finally enters the cushy part of its schedule with 10 of its final five regular-season matchups at KeyArena. But the leaguewide hiatus for the London Olympics didn’t exactly produce the result the team wanted.
C Ann Wauters remains out due to a tear in her left Achilles. F Tina Thompson said she’s about 70 percent healed from left knee and ankle sprains while C Lauren Jackson is in her native Australia due to national team obligations.
In a phone conversation on Wednesday, Jackson said she was denied an original request to return home as planned with PG Sue Bird. The switch came because Jackson was named flag bearer and had a remarkable run in the Games, setting the all-time women’s Olympic scoring record (575) and the rebounding record. The latter can’t be proven because FIBA didn’t keep cumulative stats for rebounding in previous Games.
Now Jackson is at the forefront for numerous celebratory events. She is expected to return to Seattle on Monday and could play in Tuesday’s televised game against Minnesota depending on jet lag.
“I feel like I’m playing well and want to keep playing,” Jackson said. “I’m really proud of everything that’s happened to me. It’s an unbelievable experience.”
While the stars may be out, Storm coach Brian Agler was able to utilize the time to strengthen his bench players. He also was able to get the starters back in shape. The second “training camp” has been especially beneficial to G Svetlana Abrosimova and C Ewelina Kobryn.
Abrosimova, who played on the 2010 Storm championship team, was signed in June. She missed all of the original training camp. Kobryn arrived late, getting about a week’s worth of practice before the season-opener against Los Angeles.
Add the individual work wings Shekinna Stricklen and Alysha Clark received during the break and Agler is eager to see what the team will look like in Thursday’s matchup against Phoenix.
Stricklen (one) and Kobryn (three) had to start games due to injuries prior to the break. Stricklen averaged 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in her five games before the hiatus while Kobryn averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 boards.
The Storm won three of its final games heading into the break to finish at 9-10. Phoenix (4-15) is on a six-game losing streak.
“We’ve had a good training camp here, a second training camp,” Agler said. “Some of the people are getting better. We’re starting to get what I think is the right mentality for our team. I think some people are sort of refreshed getting a 10-day break. Yeah, I’m looking forward to (Thursday).”
Phoenix may not be. Olympian Diana Taurasi did not travel because of a late return from London. She hasn’t played since May. Posts Candice Dupree and Charde Houston underwent knee surgery during the break. And then there’s that losing streak which could land the Mercury in the Brittney Griner draft sweepstakes.
The Mercury signed former Arizona State PG Dymond Simon to a seven-day contract to help fill some voids.
None of the players appeared in the July 13th game against Seattle to end the first part of the season, so scouting could be easier.
“The practices went well,” Storm G Tanisha Wright said of the break. “I think we got better as a team for sure, just getting back in shape after 10 days (off), knock out some rustiness. But you can never know because we’re playing against the guys and stuff. But it felt better defensively, offensively. It was smoother getting up and down the court…those things we can see. But you still have to play a certain amount of games.”
Here’s a clip of Jackson (in a Seattle Mariners t-shirt) talking about her Olympic experience from her namesake gym in Albury.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm F Camille Little takes a shot against Phoenix by the Associated Press.