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Friday, April 16, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Jayda Evans
Rivals usually don't help each other succeed. Minnesota amended that thought yesterday, trading what could be the final pieces to the Storm's desired championship mosaic.
In exchange for its lottery pick in tomorrow's WNBA draft and forward Amanda Lassiter, the Storm received forward Sheri Sam and center Janell Burse from the Lynx yesterday. The move fulfills Storm coach Anne Donovan's wishes of acquiring a veteran scorer on the perimeter and a traditional center.
"It was not an easy move for us," said Minnesota coach Suzie McConnell Serio. "It's no secret we're trying to do something (to draft University of Minnesota guard) Lindsay Whalen. But this is a team that we had the tiebreaker with and barely beat. Now, we just made them a better team."
The Storm and Lynx finished last season with 18-16 records. But Minnesota defeated Seattle 3-1 in their four-game series, advancing to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Coincidentally, it was Burse's improved play (along with Olympian Katie Smith's shooting) that gave the Lynx an edge.
And now Burse is member of the Storm.
"We were really glad they were willing to give us the two really important pieces that we need," said Karen Bryant, Storm chief operating officer. "The entire offseason our coaches talked about two priorities, a post and scorer on the perimeter. We met both of those needs."
The Storm had the sixth overall pick while the Lynx have the seventh. The Connecticut Sun, which owns the fourth pick, is the only team ahead of Minnesota in need of a guard. Still, the Lynx hope Whalen falls to sixth because of the continued impact she can make on the state.
Whalen, who guided her team to the NCAA Final Four, basically built the Gophers' fan base and could do the same for the Lynx, who have watched their attendance decline the past two seasons. The Lynx averaged 7,074 fans last summer, third lowest in the then 14-team league.
"She's so popular around Minnesota," McConnell Serio said of Whalen. "She can mean a lot in terms of marketing and what she does on the floor. But if she wasn't the caliber of player that she is, then I don't think we'd be going through this."
Sam, who turns 30 on May 5, is a career 40.7 percent shooter who was basically muted by Smith. Both players are similar in style and there weren't enough shots to share. Sam, a 6-foot small forward, averaged 11.0 points with the Lynx, but her ability was better shown with the defunct Miami Sol. She was named to the 2002 All-Star team and averaged a career-best 14.5 points on 43.4 percent shooting for the season.
"It was difficult at times," Sam said of playing a lesser role. "But when you're out on the court basketball is basketball and I enjoyed being there. I don't regret a thing.
"I think Seattle needs a perimeter player (like me). I'm excited. This is a good opportunity."
It's premature to say Sam will replace forward Adia Barnes in the starting lineup, but the Storm did gain a proven scorer, which Barnes was molding herself into before a season-ending knee injury.
Burse, 6-5, will most likely relieve Kamila Vodichkova of playing center full time. Donovan said she almost drafted Burse in 2001 instead of Tammy Sutton-Brown while coaching at Charlotte.
Burse, who turns 25 on May 19, emerged after she was put in Minnesota's starting lineup last summer. She averaged 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds during the Lynx's run to the playoffs in August.
"We know we upgraded our roster," Donovan said. "That's a good feeling heading into (training) camp."
The Storm will miss Lassiter's athletic ability, defense, and locker-room humor. But as one of the youngest teams in the league last season, the organization felt it needed more consistent veterans especially to help with the team's 5-12 record in road games.
The trade also leaves Seattle with one pick in the second round of the draft (19th overall). The Storm traded its third-round pick for guard Rita Williams.
Burse, who will be playing in her fourth WNBA season, and Sam, entering her sixth campaign, are entering the final year of multi-year contracts. The Storm would not disclose the terms of their deals.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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