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 WNBA 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 C Ashley Robinson, who offered depth inside with C Lauren Jackson (hamstring) out due to offseason surgery. Robinson, 31, was added to the roster before the All-Star break after C Nakia Sanford didn’t produce on the court and opted not to be a short-term contract player. Able to play a 10th WNBA season, Robinson averaged 9.5 minutes in relief for posts Tina Thompson and Camille Little.
Seattle Times: You weren’t expecting to return to Seattle or the WNBA at all this season, how was the experience for 21 games?
Robinson: Cool. It could always be better, you know. It was a situation that wasn’t easy but I really tried to make the best of it and I wish we could have advanced in the playoffs. But I think this team exceeded all expectations and is a good team for the Storm organization to grow off of.
Q: After being cut by Washington, your only goal was to play a 10th WNBA season. Now that you have, are you looking to retire?
Robinson: I’m just going over to Korea (Samsung Life Bichumi) and play right now. That’s the only plan I’ve made so far. I made up my mind to play in Korea and I have to see how I feel. I haven’t made any WNBA plans. I really don’t have any expectations right now. I’m excited to be going to Korea and there’s going to be a lot of WNBA players this year. It’ll be fun.
Q: Is it a surprise a couple of your Storm teammates will play there, too?
Robinson: It’s a surprise because it rarely happens like that. But the Korean league is such a good league and the Storm has good players, so it doesn’t surprise me that the WKBL would want players that can be professional. Who’ll go over there and work hard, be successful and get wins. They’ll represent their team well. It’s a professional league.
Q: You’re making a return, so what is it like to play in Korea?
Robinson: We’re sponsored by Samsung. I don’t know how they get their money from Samsung but I know that it’s a big sponsor. The crowds are good. We all (teams) have our own arenas, so when we practice or have a home game, we have our own arena and don’t have to share with other teams. Americans would love to go to Korea, it’s a good place. They pay on time and it’s a competitive league. They take care of you and I love the food and the people. The culture is great. They just treat you really good as people. With basketball, you end up playing really well because they treat you really well.
Q: You and Tanisha Wright (France, Israel and now Turkey) are some of the few WNBA players who don’t have problems with cuisine overseas, what do you like about Korean food?
Robinson: They have really good chicken. For all of us chicken lovers who grew up on chicken, they have the best and it’s delivered. You can really get five different types of chicken any day of the week over there and it is the bomb. Anybody who says different is lying.
Q: In China, the teams expect the Americans to do all of the scoring. Is there an emphasis like that in Korea?
Robinson: They depend on the Americans to score, rebound and guard the best opponent, which is probably another American center. They want you to average double-doubles. They expect you to be productive. Now that it’s two Americans (on a roster), it may be that they want you to be productive for two quarters since you (Americans) can’t be on the court at the same time. It’s not like last year where we had to play 40 minutes; we’ll split the time with another American. That’s kinda cool. I’m playing with Nikki Greene, she went to Penn State.
Q: What was it like to be part of Tina’s final WNBA season?
Robinson: I’m so proud of the Storm, the way they sent off Tina. She retired with grace just being who she is — Tina Thompson. Tina has meant so much to our league, I was just happy to be part of that. Being from Texas, I was in high school when she was winning all of her championships with the Comets. It was cool to get to be in the same locker room as her and take in what she brings to the game. It gets deep with Tina when it comes to the WNBA because all of us started with watching her.