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September 23, 2014 at 9:07 AM

Storm 2014 Exit Interviews: Temeka Johnson adapted to play as a backup


Storm PG Temeka Johnson PHOTO: Neil Enns/Storm Photos

Series Note: The Storm did not advance to the postseason for the first time since 2003. The team held its exit interviews in August. This series will feature conversations from the 12-player roster. PG Sue Bird’s conversation was a feature used in the newspaper.

In a new move, the WNBA held the draft lottery four days after Seattle lost its regular-season finale to eventual WNBA champion Phoenix. Seattle (12-22) and Tulsa (12-22) had the best chance to win the No. 1 overall pick, the Storm hitting the lucky number. The draft should be held in April 2015.

In addition to a top-tier pick, should Storm coach and GM Brian Agler choose to keep it, the team could look different. Alisha Valavanis, the organization’s new chief operating officer, is taking a holistic approach to moving the franchise into the next 15 years and that includes on the court.

Here’s a conversation with PG Temeka Johnson, who moved to a backup role due to Bird returning to the active list. Johnson started in place of Bird last season as the latter rehabilitated from 2013 knee surgery. Johnson was last a reserve in 2008 with Los Angeles, otherwise her 10-year career has been as the floor general. The one-time WNBA champion with Phoenix offered a different look off the bench as a substitute for Tanisha Wright and Bird. Johnson ranked in the league top 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.08). She averaged 5.8 points and 3.2 assists overall. Johnson recorded the Storm franchise’s first triple-double in an overtime loss to New York at KeyArena with 13 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Johnson is returning to Russia to play during the WNBA offseason. She’s under contract to return to Seattle.

Seattle Times: A lot of focus this season was on Tanisha and her being in the final year of her contract, but you’re entering your 10th season, too. Any thoughts about retirement or being worn down?

Johnson: I feel great. My body feels fine, I’m healthy and I still love the game. Yeah, the plan is to keep going. I’m supposedly going to Russia to play, but I’m not really sure because of the new rules (limiting Americans on a team). Playing? I feel good.

Q: So, you could play another season with Nadezhda Orenburg. Last season you helped lead them to a first-ever domestic league finals, did your teammates watch your WNBA season?

Johnson: They do and we talk to each other on Facebook, Instagram. With social media, the ways of communicating are phenomenal now. So, we can keep in contact.

Q: With the Storm, what did you like most about what you were able to contribute?

Johnson: Actually, seeing things from a different perspective. Although it was a difficult position and different position for me, I actually learned a lot. And I was able to share that with people who were beside me. Share what I saw when we were in the locker room at halftime, stuff like that. I was still leading, but from a different perspective. My teammates were very receptive. That’s what I like about our team. The group of women that we have, we respect one another and we respect everyone’s opinion. Everybody has a voice because none of us can do it without the next person.

Q: Did you prepare yourself during the offseason for the possibility of being a reserve or know before training camp that would be the case?

Johnson: No, I didn’t know. I’m an adjustable person. I adjusted. Our life is adjusting. My goal was to continually play my game because I don’t know how to do or be anybody else. That’s what I did. You always want to grow. I take pride in becoming better as a person and as a player, that’s extremely important to me.

Q: You’ve had a few events during the season for your children’s books, will that continue during the offseason?

Johnson: Anybody that wants to listen to me talk, I’m available. Just playing. I’ll go home (Louisiana), get in the classrooms and see what’s needed. For me, I’m OK. The reason for my doing the books was for me to be able to help other people. That’s what’s most important.

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