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Thursday, December 04, 2003 - Page updated at 12:43 A.M.

Storm
Storm to draft sixth after Phoenix wins first pick in lottery

By Jayda Evans
Seattle Times staff reporter

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Sue Bird crossed her fingers, but the Storm couldn't beat the odds this time.

The WNBA held its draft lottery yesterday and the order for the April draft went almost as expected with the Phoenix Mercury winning the No. 1 seed. The only position jump was Indiana to the No. 3 pick even though its probability chances had it selecting fifth. Washington will select second, while San Antonio and New York are fourth and fifth, respectively.

Seattle, which won the inaugural lottery in 2001, is the No. 6 selection.

"I was excited about the lottery (yesterday), just pulling the upset and finishing No. 1," said Storm coach Anne Donovan from her vacation spot in the Bahamas. "It didn't (happen), but we will be able to work now that we have a number."

Although basking in the sun, Donovan was scouting a tournament in the Caribbean and her staff is scattered around the country scouting players.

"I think we can cross Connecticut off the list," said Storm assistant Jenny Boucek of what many are predicting will happen with the No. 1 pick.

UConn guard Diana Taurasi has been raved about since entering the storied program. She's won two NCAA championships and has been on the cover of major sports magazines.

Taurasi is the consensus No. 1 pick among coaches and general managers in the league, yet Seth Sulka, vice president and general manager of the Mercury, is coy about his plans for the pick. Former Storm coach Lin Dunn was similar in 2001 when she said she was entertaining trade options, ultimately selecting the highly touted Bird, another former UConn star.

"(Lin) said it, but I don't think it was ever true," Sulka said. "I'll say it and mean it. If the draft were tomorrow, we'd select Diana Taurasi. She's an unbelievable player, but we have time to look at all of our options."

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Donovan doesn't think there are many out there.

Phoenix wants to remain in the top three, meaning only Washington or Indiana could work a trade with the Mercury. The Connecticut Sun would probably give up its casino to land Taurasi, but doesn't have a player who is as marketable and talented as Taurasi to maneuver a trade.

Those are important factors because the Mercury, 8-26 last season, has suffered from low attendance and has dealt with player blemishes only the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers can relate to.

Forget the Band-Aid. Taurasi could be a miracle cure.

"I can't imagine anything would be worth trading that pick," Donovan said.

Donovan is searching for a perimeter scorer and a backup post player. She'd consider a trade to acquire the need, but timing will play a role.

The WNBA will make a decision on whether to fold or relocate the Cleveland Rockers by the end of this month. If they move the team, it would be to an NBA city, only none have been rumored to join the league this summer. If the Rockers fold, there would be a dispersal draft of their roster before the April college/international draft. Seattle could pick up its needs there.

Donovan is also keeping an eye on free agency, which begins Feb. 1. A big name there is Charlotte Sting forward Allison Feaster, who averaged 12.4 points and 3.3 rebounds last season. Donovan coached Feaster for two seasons in Charlotte and continues to compliment her style of play.

One thing the Storm won't do is search for another international player. The team had seven on its roster last season and will pay for it this summer. So far three Storm players have qualified for the Olympics — Australians Suzy Batkovic and Lauren Jackson, and the Czech Republic's Kamila Vodichkova — while Donovan is one of the U.S. team's assistants. South Korean Jung Sun-Min's national team has yet to qualify, but if it does she has already said she won't return for the 2004 WNBA season. Bird has to try out for the U.S. team in February.

The WNBA is taking a monthlong break for the Olympic competition, but some national teams like Australia and South Korea are pressuring their players to be with them to prepare for the games. In that case, the Storm could be without three of its starting five and its head coach for part of the season.

"Going international is not my philosophy," said Donovan, who drafted Jung last season. "There's always a gamble. The French players are intriguing, but not in the first round."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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