Series note: The Storm conducted exit interviews on Thursday, giving me the opportunity to ask players everything from views on their season to fashion and hair tips. I’ll post conversations from each in the upcoming days. Centers Ewelina Kobryn (Poland) and Ann Wauters (Belgium) won’t be featured due to their quick return home. We’ll start with a copy of Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler’s exit interview Wednesday conducted by the team due to my travel home from Minnesota.
Q: Was the first-round playoff series against Minnesota what you envisioned when you put together this roster?
Brian Agler: Well, yes. We finally had a chance to get together here the last couple weeks and had everybody on the court, got a couple practices in so we did get a chance to see a little bit about what we thought we would have as a team this year. Obviously, we knew Lauren (Jackson) wouldn’t be back until the middle of August but we really showed some great signs and I thought we played great basketball down the stretch of the season.
Q: Is it tough to have to test yourself against a team like Minnesota with their level of competition?
Agler: Well, I think it’s probably the best way to get tested. They’ve proven to be the best team in the league this year at this point anyway with their overall record during the regular season and we felt like all those games could have gone either way and you know, we’re proud of our efforts, we’re disappointed in the outcome and we’re going to study this and look at our team and see how we can improve.
Q: What’s the health of some of the players, including if any need surgery?
Agler: We have probably two or three that will (need to take care of some things). We don’t know details yet, the timing of those things but I’m sure we’ll have people that will have some surgery or have some major rehab that they have to go through before they can continue to play again and whether it’s going to Europe or overseas or even back here next year.
Q: What was PG Sue Bird’s health in the playoffs?
Agler: Well, it’s hard to say percentage-wise because I think from her standpoint, she’d feel one way one day and one way the next day so I thought the last two games that she played in the series were exceptional and that being said, I know that she’s got to deal with and get past some issues here after the season.
Q: Is it mostly Bird’s left hip still?
Agler: Yes, it is.
Q: What about Lauren’s health?
Agler: Well, she’s going to go back to Australia and play there this off-season. I don’t think she’ll have any surgery done but I do think that she’s got some ailments that she needs to take care of and she’ll go through some significant rehab.
Q: Was something else affecting her hamstring?
Agler: It’s just the whole lower back; hamstring, lower back issues. The last time that she spent quality time there in Australia, she got to be pretty healthy and I think she sees that happening again.
Q: Any other players to watch for when it comes to health issues?
Agler: Well, a lot of people have issues and I’m sure all the teams are like that. Tanisha (Wright) has battled knee issues all season long; that would be the main one that I would have to really look at some things. Obviously, Tina (Thompson), since her injury there in LA back in July, she’s never gotten back to 100 percent but she got to the point where she could play pretty good minutes.
Q: How do you view the roster given the injuries it battled?
Agler: There’s a tremendous amount of respect. I told them after the game that I don’t think I’d ever been more proud of a team and how they battled; knowing what they’re going through individually and all the issues that we battled throughout the season, whether it be injury, absence, schedule, all those things were very taxing on our team.
Q: How do you approach putting together a roster for next season?
Agler: I think the first thing you do is sit here and evaluate this season and how it shaped out, how we matured as a team and how each player matured. Then you go in the off-season and have a series of meetings with your staff, your front office, the owners and you talk about a couple things: you talk about the upcoming season but then you also talk about the big picture, the two, three, four years down the road. Obviously, we want to keep adding young players to our roster and the number that we do is hard to say at this moment but we do have a middle of first-round pick and we’ll scout real hard to see who that person is and we’ll have some options there. Then, we’ll decide on what players we want to return and then we’ll scour and look and evaluate the free agency market.
Q: Do you feel that the first-round pick could potentially step into the rotation next season?
Agler: Could be, it’s hard to say right now because those people are just coming off their junior year in college but just like Shekinna (Stricklen) worked herself into the rotation this year; we could find someone like her.
Q: What about the international players you claim the rights to?
Agler: Yeah, we’ve talked about some of that. We’ll have to make some decisions by December on the players we can keep the rights to. We can only have it at four and sometimes we get a free agency so we’ll sit there and I think we’ll have to decide on six or seven people.
Q: How does Euro Basket fit into some of the decisions?
Agler: Well, I mean, it all depends on the commitment that the player has to their national team.
Q: Have you talked with Abby Bishop about coming back, depending on her international commitment?
Agler: We’ve had some conversation, I mean, nothing in detail. She’s expressed to us her desire to come back at some point but we haven’t gone beyond that.
Q: How much do those decisions figure into what you’re doing with the roster?
Agler: The international players? I think it’s an evaluation we have to go through. They will be part of the conversation.
Q: Is it hard to evaluate this team since you didn’t see the whole roster all season?
Agler: In some ways, yes, but in other ways, I thought we had a couple weeks here to really see how things could develop. I think we have a player or two that has some decisions to make in regard to the future. So, I think some of these decisions that are made on people will be more of a conversation on what’s going to be important to them in comparison to just the Seattle Storm. You have to evaluate their international teams, their national teams, the timing of our season, when training camp starts, when the season ends and how that fits into their big picture throughout the 365 days of the year.
Q: Could you see anything dramatic happening during this off-season with the core similar to the trade you made last off-season?
Agler: I think it’s really too early to tell right now because we’re less than 24 hours off of our last game and we’re still getting back into town and we haven’t had many conversations about 2013 and beyond. I also think we’ll take the approach — I think our organization understands the importance of continuity but I also think we have an eye on the immediate future and the far-reaching future and so decisions could be based in any of those three categories.
Q: How do you see Shekinna’s development coming into her second season?
Agler: Yeah I think its going to be a very important off-season for Shekinna because in college, she was on a strict schedule, she came here and she was on a pretty strict schedule in regards to working out everyday and those things. When you go to Europe, it just depends on the environment that you’re in and I’ve seen players go over and keep developing in a positive way and I’ve also seen players go over and really take a step backwards so it’s going to take a lot of mental discipline on her behalf to stay with the plan and to keep getting better. If she does, then we see a tremendous amount of upside for her.
Q: How does Alysha Clark fit into the future based on her season?
Agler: Sort of the same as Shekinna. Honestly, (Alysha) is still working to make that transition from a post player in college to a perimeter player here in this league and she started some of that through her play in Europe and I think she’ll continue to do so. I think her plans are to go back to Israel and play on the same team she did.
Q: Do you see any area you need to strengthen in terms of next year’s roster, position-wise?
Agler: I could see us trying to really add three pieces in some capacity. I could see us adding a post player, I could see us adding a wing player and I can see us adding somebody that could give us some support at the point guard spot.
Q: Did it take a toll on Tanisha when she had to step up after Sue was out since she was the only option at point?
Agler: Well, I think it took a toll early on in the year but I think what really benefited our team this year was the play of Katie Smith down the stretch, where Katie could play some of the point and really help us in that area.
Q: How did you feel about Katie’s play later in the season?
Agler: She played her best basketball in two years in Seattle since this year’s Olympic break. Past the Olympic break, I thought she played really well for us. I think she’s getting to the point in her career where she’s got to make some decisions on when it’s over but I also think she’ll probably weigh the pros and cons of continuing to play. I don’t know this because I haven’t talked to her but I’m sure how she’s played as of late will probably be encouraging her more to keep playing for another year or so but whether it’s here in Seattle or not, that’s yet to be seen.
Q: Did playing with only 10 players (since Lauren was absent) hinder the team?
Agler: Well, obviously, when you have more depth, it helps. Ten players was the decision we decided to go with but when it became taxing is when we ended up playing with seven players and eight players, that’s when it becomes difficult.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm coach Brian Agler by The Seattle Times.