Series Note: The Storm was swept in the opening-round of the WNBA playoffs by Minnesota on Sept. 22. Game 2 was played at the Tacoma Dome due to a scheduling conflict at the team’s KeyArena court by one of its sponsors, Microsoft. Minnesota went on to win the Western Conference championship as Seattle players dispersed to offseason destinations the following days after holding exit interviews with coaches and the media. This series will feature conversations from the 11-player roster.
The WNBA offseason won’t feel as long given news the league should generate on the business side. The league’s collective-bargaining agreement expired Sept. 30 and a new agreement will need to be in place before free-agency can open as tentatively slated in February. The 2014 WNBA schedule likely will be moved up to accommodate for the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Turkey from Sept. 27-Oct. 5.
Storm-wise, the team could remain the same in 2014. Here’s a conversation with G Tanisha Wright, who took on the co-captain role as franchise leaders PG Sue Bird (knee) and C Lauren Jackson (hamstring) rehabilitated offseason surgeries. Wright, 29, was named to the All-WNBA Defensive First-Team. A 5-foot-11 slasher, she averaged 11.9 points, 4.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds as she split offensive duties with PG Temeka Johnson. Wright also started a namesake blog during the season.
Seattle Times: It hasn’t been 24-hours since the loss, but how do you look back at the series with Minnesota?
Wright: The only thing for me is I’m not disappointed. I’m not disappointed in the effort. I’m not disappointed in the season. Being a competitor, you want to continue to play and play for a championship. But I think the effort that we’ve given this year (compared to) the expectations, we’ve exceed the box that people put us in. I’m happy with that. We exceed people’s expectations and met our own expectations.
Q: Did you just “meet” your expectations or did you surprise yourself at all this season?
Wright: No. We absolutely met our own expectations. Every year that we come into the season, we expect to be able to make the playoffs. Once you make the playoffs, you put yourself in the position to try to win a championship. We did that, again. And we did it with what we have, so I’m happy with that.
Q: Immediately after last season’s Game 3 loss to Minnesota in the postseason you were concerned about possibly needing knee surgery. Instead you rehabbed at home and didn’t play overseas. You didn’t miss a start, so the plan worked?
Wright: It was good. My knees felt good this year. We did a lot of maintenance stuff and a lot of pull back in practices (participation/activity). We did everything possible to help me to be in position to not have to worry about it. Right now, they feel good. But I suspect for years to come, it’ll be something like this. As long as I’m smart about it and the doctors don’t feel like I need surgery, it’s not anything that I’m going to consider. I’ll always get second opinions but right now my knees feel healthy.
Q: Will you go back overseas, then? You were named the 2011 MVP in the Israeli league.
Wright: I’m headed over to Turkey. It (playing for Kayseri Kaski spor) was a good opportunity for me.
Q: Turkey is really starting to attract star American players and teammate Camille will play on your team. You’ve also played in France and Israel, but is Turkey really one of the leaders competition-wise?
Wright: The year that I played in France, it was a competitive league. Not as competitive as Russia at that time, but it was competitive. Israel, there’s always a bunch of WNBA players there. It’s definitely not as competitive but it all depends on the year. Turkey, just the past few years, it became competitive because of the players that were going there for whatever reason. Before that, Russia was and is always the most competitive league. Israel obviously isn’t as competitive as a Russia or now as a Turkey, because a lot more WNBA players are playing in Turkey the past few years.
Q: So, you and Camille will experience your first Turkish season together, that has to be comforting.
Wright: You can definitely say that! Camille and I are friends off the court. Any time we can have more of an opportunity to be able to stay in touch and play with each other, we both enjoy that. It’s a good thing. It wasn’t originally (intentional) but when the opportunity presented itself, it became a little more intentional.
Q: Going with that, friends, you stated loving the chemistry y’all had this season. Two more of your close friends in Lauren and Sue will return, so will the dynamic of the roster remain?
Wright: You never know. You never know how you’re going to mesh. But we are adding two huge pieces, dynamic pieces to the roster with Sue and Lauren — cornerstones to this team. I suspect the attitude and mentality won’t change. We can never predict whether or not or how things will mesh from year to year. That’s evident from 2010 and us playing 2011 (when we had a lot of players return from the championship season). You can have the exact same team and you don’t respond. Results aren’t always going to be the same.
Q: So, it’s not a knock on Katie Smith, Eva Kobryn, Ann Wauters or other players from last year when you talk about how this is the best season and teammates you’ve played with?
Wright: I don’t take shots on anybody. It’s not a knock on them. It’s just that this year, the players that he (Brian Agler) brought in just meshed really well. The camaraderie was great. The mentality was the same across the board, from the first player to the 11th player. Because of that, we were able to straighten it out on the floor a little bit better.
Q: How did you feel about the improvement of Alysha Clark?
Wright: Alysha is sort of like Maya (Moore) in the respect and terms that she’s going to outwork people. Maya obviously is very, very talented along with that she’s going to outwork people. The one thing that you know you’re always going to get out of Alysha is that she’s going to work. And in most cases she’s going to outwork you. She got better throughout the year because she got more confident. The more time that she got (on the court) she got into the rotation and Brian started to really trust her. So, of course it’s easier to play and to relax when you’re in that type of situation. She did an amazing job for us this year.
Q: Then it shouldn’t be a surprise she was on the court taking possible game-winning three-pointers and playing key defensive matchups in the waning seconds of Game 2?
Wright: Not a surprise for me because Brian has been trusting her more. Now, if you would have asked me that last year, I would have been a little bit more surprised. This year, you know, he trusted her. And she proved herself trust-worthy.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to improve on with your game this offseason?
Wright: There are always things you can improve on in your game. To be honest, I haven’t thought about it right now. I’m sure when I get overseas there will be something I’ll work on. I’ll figure it out.
Q: You don’t care about being a three-point shooter? You shot 28.3 percent (13-for-46) during the regular-season.
Wright: I’m in my ninth season. Obviously I care, and you want to be able to make people pay for whatever reason. But I think by now, I have the respect of opponents. It’s not like they don’t guard me, people guard me. If I’m open, I’ll take the shot. I’ll continue to work at it. This year was a lot different than the previous years because the ball is pretty much always in my hands. So, the opportunity doesn’t even present itself as much. But obviously, I’ll always work on that. You can always get better.
Q: I ask because you’re so good driving to the basket and getting the old-fashion three-point play, so I didn’t know if you cared about just shooting it from outside.
Wright: I guess that’s easier for me, I don’t know.
Q: Well, it doesn’t look easy! Anyway, the way it looks now, Temeka would backup Sue at the point?
Wright: That’s a huge assumption, isn’t it? Why? She (Temeka) is one of our best defenders, too. Why couldn’t it be three? Who knows. I have no idea what look Brian is going to go for next year. Maybe he’ll play zone all year. Either way, I know Temeka well enough to know that it’s not about that. It’s about the team. That was the biggest compliment about the players this year, that it was never about self. It wasn’t. It wasn’t about the individual, it was always about the whole. I’m sure next season will be the same. It will be about whatever is best for the whole. If that (Temeka off the bench) is best for the whole, then that’s what he (Brian) will do and that’s what she’ll do. I’m confident in that.
Q: But isn’t that a tiny lineup, y’all three in the starting lineup?
Wright: Yeah. It’s probably a quicker lineup, too. And then you have three ball-handlers all the time. No matter what, you have three people who can attack in the pick-and-roll. I’m sure that regardless if it’s a starting lineup or whatever, it’s a lineup that’s going to be seen. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s starting or in the middle or at the end of the game. You’ll have three ball-handlers on the court at all times and that’s big! You don’t ever have to worry about somebody coming back to the ball, your fast break gets off a little bit quicker, etcetera. You have three people who can get you into an offense. It’s nice to have. We haven’t had that in I don’t know how many years.
Q: Well, you had that with Katie last year, right?
Wright: You saw the games. I’ll leave that up to you.