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 F Crystal Langhorne, who was acquired via draft-day trade with Washington for the Storm’s 2013 (Tianna Hawkins) and 2014 (Bria Hartley) first-round picks. Due to Lauren Jackson missing a second WNBA season due to injury (knee/Achilles) and WNBA legend Tina Thompson retiring, Agler made the stopgap move for Langhorne to fill the hole in the paint. Langhorne (Maryland) competed against Storm F Camille Little (North Carolina) in college, however the Storm season was the first time the undersized posts — both at 6-foot-2 — played alongside each other. It took half the schedule for the duo to gel but the combination showed flashes of promise throughout the season. And who will ever forget Langhorne’s screen against Tulsa G Skylar Diggins, which was questionably called a foul? (video below)
Langhorne had her best stint in July when she averaged 14.7 points on 59.6 percent shooting from the field with an averaged 6.9 rebounds. However, Seattle was 2-9 during the month, including a seven-game losing streak.
The seven-year veteran will play in Slovakia during the WNBA offseason. Langhorne is under contract to return in 2015 and likely will have a similar role. Jackson has not returned to play due to recent hip and more knee surgeries. She’s determined to play the 2015 WNBA season but her capabilities after nearly two years off the court is unknown.
Seattle Times: You have a lot of time off before traveling to Slovakia in mid-October, how are you spending the time?
Langhorne: I’m going to take a month off because I’m big on taking breaks when we have time like this. Then I’m going to start training again in Maryland. And I’ll take a vacation somewhere.
Q: You’ve missed the postseason before with Washington, any insights on Seattle doing the same?
Langhorne: It just sucks because here in Seattle, we always make the playoffs. When I was in D.C., a lot was expected of me, so when I came here, I tried not think too much about that stuff, like Lauren Jackson not coming and filling in and keeping the playoff run going. I just tried to come in and play my game and tried to fit in.
Q: In evaluating the roster, to me, it’s a tricky situation in that everyone is a quality player but perhaps the Storm could have used its draft picks better to plan for the future and not continually hope Lauren returns healthy or think Sue plays long past the 2016 Olympics. Do you feel that’s just the downside to how you’re evaluated or viewed by Storm outsiders?
Langhorne: Yeah. It’s more so, you have to remember in the back of your mind that it’s a business. People say “family” and blah, blah, blah, but it’s a business. If you can you remember that, you won’t get upset if you get traded or stuff like that.
Q: What was it like when you returned to D.C. for the game in May where you finished with six points and 14 rebounds in a win?
Langhorne: It was different. You know, being in a different locker room and seeing everyone. But half the team was new. It wasn’t like I was playing against a whole bunch of people I was used to playing with. There were just two or three. The fans were nice. They always treat me well in D.C.
Q: Was it awkward seeing the Mystics get a playoff berth with a revamp roster?
Langhorne: Well, they have a good team and Coach (Mike) Thibault is a good coach, they had a good season. I watch their games. But I felt I fit in here. I’m pretty chill and easy to get along with. There’s a great group of ladies here. Like we had fun after a win on one of our owners’ boats. It was a good time.
Q: And you like to suntan, right?
Langhorne: Yeah. A lot of darker skinned people are like “No, no!” I don’t mind getting darker. I don’t really care.
Q: When did you feel like you clicked on the court with Camille?
Langhorne: Around August. You don’t want to force things. We tried to let stuff happen and as the season went on, we got more comfortable playing with each other. I knew more so what she was going to do and the same with her. So, yeah, after the All-Star break, we started playing better. I’m looking forward to coming back.