WNBA training camp doesn’t open until Sunday, but the Storm is already evaluating its roster and making cuts. The first is All-Star F Charde Houston. She was cut Thursday after the Storm made an offseason trade to acquire Houston from Phoenix in exchange for the rights to Polish C Ewelina Kobryn. The latter played 51 games for Seattle between the 2011-12 seasons, starting six games in 2012.
Kobryn is currently playing in Russia with Storm PG Sue Bird, however, Kobryn has always been questionable to return to play in the WNBA for various reasons. Brian Agler, the Storm’s coach and general manager, stated in the past that the language barrier hindered Kobryn’s ability to secure a roster spot, too.
Given the struggles, trading Kobryn’s rights to Phoenix seemed beneficial since Seattle received an All-Star and one-time WNBA champion in return in Houston. She averaged 17.2 minutes off the bench in helping the Mercury reach the Western Conference Finals last season.
Cutting Houston makes the original trade questionable since Kobryn is a 6-foot-4 post and the Storm’s focus is finding depth inside to replace future Hall of Fame F Tina Thompson (retirement) and Australian star C Lauren Jackson not returning due to a knee injury.
But it’s a series of events that made Houston expendable, according to Agler.
The trade for Houston was made in March. In April, Agler signed Aussie Olympic F Jenna O’Hea, C Angel Robinson, and made the trade for All-Star F Crystal Langhorne on draft day. Langhorne, a noted 6-2 rebounder, was the biggest and most unexpected catch that only materialized when Indiana drafted F Natasha Howard over C Stefanie Dolson with its No. 5 overall pick.
Washington coach Mike Thibault wanted Dolson and PG Bria Hartley on his revamped Mystics roster. The pair won the NCAA championship together for UConn in April. Going with the youth movement in his second season, Thibault was willing to part with Langhorne, who averaged 12 points and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds for the Mystics in 2013. Agler traded his 2013 first-round draft pick in F Tianna Hawkins and drafted Hartley with Seattle’s 2014 No. 7 overall pick as part of the deal with Thibault, who selected Dolson with the No. 6 pick.
Langhorne, 27, is a two-time All-Star Agler envisions being part of the organization long-term. If he hadn’t secured her in a trade, Agler would have drafted injured Notre Dame F Natalie Achonwa (Indiana). With stronger options excluding Houston, Agler said he has more room within his salary cap to make better decisions this season and into the future for the Storm. He also has the option to carry a 12th player under new CBA rules.
“We made the decision on cap flexibility,” Agler said Thursday. “We were anticipating waiting to see how she (Charde) played for us and those things but as we started moving closer to training camp and looking to the future, it’s best we part ways right now.”
Bird, Langhorne, PG Temeka Johnson, G Tanisha Wright, wing Noelle Quinn, F Camille Little, and F Shekinna Stricklen have guaranteed contracts. The remaining players in camp are competing for a minimum of four roster spots.
Of the above players, only Quinn and Stricklen will report on-time. Johnson and Bird will likely arrive the latest due to vying for the Russian Championship against each other. The best-of-five series begins Friday. Game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for May 3.
The Storm opens its 15th season May 16 against Los Angeles at KeyArena.