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May 12, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Seattle jilted as WNBA hosts first exhibition “tournament”


Storm G Tanisha Wright drives to hoop LINDSEY WASSON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Storm lost 74-67 in an exhibition game against Los Angeles on Sunday. It was Seattle’s only sanctioned WNBA warm-up due to scheduling conflicts to organize the standard two.

With the regular-season opener Friday and the core having only been together since Saturday, you have to wonder if it’ll be enough. The Storm plays at Phoenix this Saturday then returns home before heading out on a four-game road trip May 23 against Eastern Conference teams.

“We had a hard time getting people to play us in an exhibition game,” Storm coach Brian Agler said.

The WNBA scheduled its first exhibition “tournament” in Orlando last weekend where defending champion Minnesota, Indiana, Phoenix and Chicago played two games apiece. But originally the showcase set in an AAU environment was supposed to be USA Basketball versus the Australian national team and aired on television.

When the league and its players ratified its new collective-bargaining agreement in February, an old rule was enforced that contracted WNBA players can’t play against WNBA teams while the WNBA is in season. So, PG Sue Bird couldn’t leave the Storm to lead USAB against the Opals in an exhibition matchup and then return to Seattle for the remainder of training camp.

It’s also part of the reason C Liz Cambage couldn’t play with the Aussies and then join Tulsa — even if it’s just an exhibition game or private scrimmage.

Well, the CBA not being signed until late March and all of these plans being in limbo until resolved, Seattle was left hanging as intended exhibition season opponents Phoenix and Minnesota jetted to Orlando instead. Tulsa was Seattle’s other option but cost of travel for an exhibition game was also a factor.

“It was a little bit of frustration,” Agler said of planning his training-camp schedule. “We took whatever we could get. LA did owe us a game coming back this way.”

The Storm defeated the Sparks, 67-66, in Long Beach last season. Seattle hosted Tulsa and won that game 63-59.

Agler was able to schedule private scrimmages against the Aussies and Chinese national teams held last week at the team’s training facility at SPU and KeyArena. Those games helped the team’s growth simply in playing a different type of opponent since the game is drastically different in Australia and China.

Even hosting LA has a positive in that the Storm plays the Sparks five times this season beginning with the season-opener Friday at KeyArena. But LA’s roster got deeper on Monday when C Sandrine Gruda, a French Olympian, arrived at camp. She won Russian-league titles with Bird this past offseason.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Storm F Camille Little said. “To hold them (LA) to 74 (points), we can keep working on that — get it a couple points below that — and Brian will be happy with it…When we get a couple more games under our belt and a couple practices to get a flow with everybody, it’s going to work really well.”

Comments | More in Storm, WNBA | Topics: Brian Agler, Camille Little


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