It was a scene most have been waiting to see at Storm practice on Wednesday.
Centers Ann Wauters and Ewelina Kobryn were on one end of the court intensively working with assistant Nancy Darsch and volunteer coach Salvo Coppa on one-on-one drills in the paint. C Lauren Jackson, back from an Olympic break, took repeated shots around the horn with assistant Jenny Boucek. In the middle were rookies Shekinna Stricklen and Alysha Clark and F Tina Thompson working on offense.
Storm president and CEO Karen Byrant had a humorous conversation with Storm coach Brian Agler about Jackson being back made a difference to complete the 11-player roster.
“He said, ‘God, the locker room felt full,'” Bryant said with a laugh. “And then he said, ‘And we look bigger!’ I shared that with Lauren.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty big K.B.” Jackson responded.
Of course two of the players working out Wednesday won’t play as Seattle hosts Indiana (12-8) in the first of a two-game series Thursday at KeyArena. Wauters (Achilles) and Thompson (knee) are being given extra time to completely heal from their injuries. Thompson is expected to play on Sunday against New York (8-13) while Wauters could be another week from returning.
The Storm (10-12) has the luxury of them making a slow return because a postseason berth appears nearly guaranteed. Phoenix (4-17) and Tulsa (3-18) can’t seem to win, both playing without Olympians Diana Taurasi (Mercury) and Liz Cambage (Shock).
Yet, Phoenix defeated Seattle in the opening round in 2011 and still has 13 games to make up ground if wanted. The Mercury hosts the Liberty on Thursday.
From G Tanisha Wright to Jackson, no player in the Storm locker room accepts losing or resting on any laurels. Thursday night’s game may look a little rugged but it will be competitive.
Jackson will start and Kobryn will return to the bench. G Svetlana Abrosimova is playing well as a reserve and F Camille Little is averaging a career-high 10.9 points with a 4.9 rebounding average inside.
Still Seattle’s offense isn’t exactly designed to defend the three-point shot and Fever G Katie Douglas recently nailed seven in a game. Then there’s the do-every-thing reigning MVP Tamika Catchings to deal with.
“They’ve been good over the past years,” Agler said of Indiana, which has split its series with Seattle since 2009. “We’re always really impressed with Catchings and Douglas. They’re both extremely good players, veteran players. (Indiana) has good depth on the perimeter, shoots the ball very well from the three-point line and they’re a good defensive team. Catchings is playing a lot at the four spot, so I think they’re having a real solid year.”
There are two other games around the WNBA on Thursday.
In addition to Phoenix hosting the Liberty, the highlight of the night is San Antonio’s visit to Los Angeles. The Silver Stars (16-5) are on a whopping 12-game win streak. The Sparks (17-6) have won their past seven. Both are a sliver behind Minnesota (18-4) for first in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles is also 9-1 at Staples Center, the loss being to San Antonio. If the Silver Stars continue their streak my eyes will pop out of my head and they’ll sweep the four-game regular-season series against the Sparks.
“San Antonio is playing well,” Sparks All-Star Candace Parker said. “We’re two of those games (in the win streak). We’ve added to their motivation. You have teams that are tougher to play and tougher matchups. San Antonio has been a tough matchup for us and we’re hoping the second part of the season it won’t be as tough.”
In other news, the WNBA released it’s jersey sales data. Storm stars Sue Bird (fifth) and Jackson (seventh) were part of the top-10. Minnesota star Maya Moore led.
For team sales, the Storm wasn’t among the top-five released. The crown went to Minnesota. Four of the six Western Conference teams were the top sellers in the Lynx, Sparks, Silver Stars, and Mercury. In that order.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Iconic Storm stars Lauren Jackson (15) and Sue Bird are reunited in Seattle for the 2012 season by Seattle Times photographer John Lok circa 2010.