Series note: The Storm conducted exit interviews on Oct. 4, 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. Here’s a conversation with forward Svetlana Abrosimova. A member of the 2010 Storm championship team, Abrosimova was re-signed in June after being cut from her Russian national team. She had a smaller role as a reserve in 2012, which decreased further after spraining her wrist toward the end of the regular-season. She averaged 4.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 19 games this season. During the playoff series against Minnesota, she averaged 3.5 minutes.
Q: You went to the Madonna concert (Oct. 3)?
Abrosimova: Yeah, it’s a good thing they know me here (KeyArena). My ticket didn’t (scan correctly). But security recognized me and let me in.
Q: Are you a big fan of hers?
Abrosimova: Not a big fan, but in Russia, growing up you listen to Madonna and Michael Jackson. I kept missing her concerts. She had one in my hometown (St. Petersburg), it was an open-air concert, and I missed it. And I almost missed last night.
Q: You’ve done year-round play, how are you physically?
Abrosimova: I don’t do year-round anymore. I’m great. Whenever I get my wrist back to normal, I’ll be good to go. I have two months before I have to report (to Dynamo Moscow). I didn’t play much in the playoffs, so I’m not as banged up as the other girls, obviously. So, I actually feel good.
Q: You had a weird year even before joining the Storm, how do you look back on everything that’s happened?
Abrosimova: Obviously the whole thing with the Olympics, when it started, it was extremely tough. It was probably the lowest point of my career because of how I felt; you feel like people don’t respect you anymore, people don’t want you anymore and they took away your dream. I was hurting a lot and obviously I was happy (Storm coach) Brian (Agler) started talking to me. Coming here, it made me work through things instead of sitting at home and thinking about it or feeling sorry for myself or any other thoughts. You never know how the process works. It was good to be here (during the Olympic break) training camp with no games, working hard while the other girls were doing the Olympic thing. It definitely helped me as a person, as a player.
Abrosimova: Just to keep doing what you love. It doesn’t matter what other people take away from you, you can still get better and I was in a good situation with players who wanted to get better and work hard. When the (WNBA) games started, unfortunately players were getting hurt, so I was getting more (playing) time. I did feel like I was back in the game and feeling normal game after game, getting my timing back. Obviously two years ago we won a championship and everything was great. This year was a completely different story. A lot of missed shots at the end. A lot of injuries. It makes you appreciate the other year more. But at the same time, by going through tough things here, you get closer to the team. Seattle means more now because it wasn’t just that easy. (My) first year, you kind of got lucky. People say it was just one of those seasons. So, yeah, I was there only one year but now it’s the second year and we fought through a lot of things. You see how an organization works when it’s tough. It makes me feel like I’m even more part of the team. You know what I mean?
Q: Yes. You’re also a free agent. You say you feel closer, so is there that want to come back here?
Abrosimova: I’m still emotional. I felt like I could have done more to help the team, especially since people were playing with injuries. So, I can’t say I’m overly happy with my personal season, how I played. But it is my team. I love my team. I love the girls. I just need time to think. And I’m sure what coach’s…they’re not offering me a contract tomorrow. They have to think about direction — new players, younger players — but it is a possibility.
Q: Is it like it was after the 2010 title? If you do come to the conclusion that you want to play, it would only be in Seattle?
Abrosimova: I don’t know. I can’t be that sure.
Q: Since you were here before, how have you seen Camille Little grow?
Abrosimova: She was the only player this year who was always there in every practice. She didn’t get hurt. She was that cornerstone of the team. There’s Sue (Bird) and Lauren (Jackson), obviously, but Camille? The way she played and she was undersized than most players was like, ‘Wow, she’s really good.’ Her defense is amazing. That’s all the things that everybody knows. I’m not telling you anything new. But to have at least one person who was there the whole time and being in every drill and every practice. Because sometimes it’s hard when coach is trying to save players or let them heal their injuries. They’re on the team, but they’re not practicing because they can’t. So, it’s tough to work in practice and then go on the court and all of a sudden you have different players coming in. But Camille was always there so you felt comfortable.
Q: Do you think the league knows enough about Camille?
Abrosimova: I don’t think so. I don’t think (the WNBA) appreciates her as much as they should. It’s like the league chooses these players and they follow them all the way through their career and it’s hard to get in that mix, to bring in somebody from the outside of that. Same with Tanisha (Wright). It’s one of those things, it’s life. You can be a great person or be extremely smart but never get a good job and never get paid. What are you going to do? You play hard, you work hard, you win championships. That’s how you prove you’re the best or you’re one of the best people. All that outside stuff, it doesn’t matter.
Q: You’re a veteran player, how do you feel about teams either going young or old in an effort to win a title?
Abrosimova: I know what you’re saying but at the same time, if you pick the younger team, like when I was in Minnesota and we were young, inexperience was always the issue at the end. When you’re young, yeah you have energy and you play hard but you’re not smart enough. You don’t finish games because you’re not experienced. And every time they say, ‘Well, when you get experience we’re going to win those close games.’ You have to choose. Obviously it’s a player’s responsibility, too. When you get older and you know you’re one of the best players on the team, you need to rest. Injuries happen, like my wrist, but other players need to choose if they want to play here or Europe or take more time off. It’s not easy because there are some teams that will never allow you to take time off. But there are other teams that will, you can start in January. Obviously it’s unfortunate the WNBA doesn’t have enough money to support their players so they don’t have to kill their bodies. At the same time, as a player, you always have a choice.
Q: With that choice, it seems you have to be disciplined to continue to improve or stay on the same level when you play year-round. What do you tell a rookie like Shekinna Stricklen about the offseason when WNBA coaches aren’t around?
Abrosimova: We constantly tell her, ‘Make sure you ice your knees.’ She’s like, ‘I don’t need to ice them, I’m good!’ The girls give her little clues. It’s different when you’re a rookie. It’s her first season going overseas. I’m sure she’s excited and she’ll be excited to come back here because she’s going to miss the states so bad, she doesn’t even realize how bad. As an older player, it’s a little different because you know you only have so many years left in your career. You want to be even more dedicated to the game because you know how tough it is. You know that even if you’re not one of the best players, you’re always going to get a chance during the season. To be healthy is No. 1, get that rest but be in good shape because it (WNBA) is a different league. It’s more physical. When you’re young, you feel like you can do it, so you don’t work as hard. For her, I think Shekinna had an amazing rookie year. She’s very quite but inside you know it’s there. Whenever Brian is going to get it out of her, that she always shows it, not just every other game…like he always tells her, ‘Sometimes you take a possession off.’ So when she becomes consistent, she’s going to do some damage.
Q: In saying you’re going to take some time off, was that a big factor in where you’re playing this winter?
Abrosimova: No. Actually they didn’t have enough money to sign me in October. The plan was to play in the Olympics, but when the Olympic thing happened, I took some time. I didn’t want to sign, I wanted to take my time. Then they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re going to Seattle? You’re probably going to be in the championship, how long is that going to take? Does December sound good to you because we can’t afford you before.’ (Laughs). They were fair and I was honest, too.
Q: With the national team, have you spoken to anyone from the organization since you were cut from the pool of candidates?
Abrosimova: I’m going to have to face it when I go back home. A few days ago we had big basketball committee (Executive committee at the Russian Basketball Federation) and they voted that the coach (Boris Sokolovsky) and the entire coaching staff officially didn’t do a good job. That means that they’re not going to (extend) his contract.
Q: Then you won’t see him at all?
Abrosimova: He doesn’t have a job right now. At this stage, there was a coach’s committee and everybody said that was not a good job, they didn’t select the team right and they didn’t prepare them. So, at least somebody saw that. It wasn’t just me.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm forward Svetlana Abrosimova looks to pass by The Associated Press