Hard times ahead without Jackson
This is how much they are going to miss their three-time MVP center Lauren Jackson, while she prepares for the London Olympics.
Seattle Times staff columnist
In the final 12 minutes, when it looked as if this season's opener was going to be another celebration of the women's game in this Storm-crazy city, the Seattle Storm wasn't tough enough.
At winning time, when all it needed to secure the game was to secure the ball, the Storm got sloppy. It got soft. And it got beat. Seattle was outscored 30-10 in the fourth quarter and lost 72-66 Friday night to the Los Angeles Sparks.
"Never say never, but I can't imagine that now that we've experienced this, that we'll get punked like that again," said perennial All-Star Sue Bird. "It just seemed like things were just going so well for us those first three quarters that when they did (rally) it put us back on our heels. I'm not saying that's excusable, but that's what happened."
This is how hard it's going to be for the Seattle Storm for this first half of the season. This is how much it is going to miss its three-time MVP center Lauren Jackson, while she prepares for the London Olympics.
Even before Ann Wauters won the first jump ball of the new year, the Seattle Storm season felt as if it were in crisis.
The team will play half a season without Jackson, the best post player in the game. The sadistic early schedule has it playing seven of its first nine games on the road.
Seattle plays its Western Conference rival Los Angeles Sparks four times without Jackson and Friday's meeting was the only home game in that bunch.
The full team has been together for all of three days of practice. When the Storm talks about pregame player introductions, it's talking about introductions to each other.
Even two hours before the game, Storm coach Brian Agler said his staff still was working out substitution rotations. Still looking at what combinations work best.
"We're still a work-in-progress right now," Agler said.
Welcome to the season of great unknowns.
"We're just going to focus on what we can do each day," Agler said, "and make the best of it."
This was a rotten start.
The Storm led 54-33 with 2:48 to go in the third quarter. The Storm was winning the transition game and draining jump shots from all angles. Normally it would have kept pressuring the Sparks. Seattle would have kept pushing the ball up the floor. But this isn't a normal season. And this isn't the same Seattle Storm.
This night was the best of times — it led 24-10 after the first quarter — that turned into the worst of times for this team.
"I think we're going to be a team that gets better as the season goes on," Agler said. "Whether it's because we get a chance to practice or because we get additional players on our roster. I think we can be (good) at some point. There's a lot of questions to be answered including tonight. How we play together and what's our identity going to be."
This game posed even more questions. It answered none.
After their sprinter's start, the Storm played erratically. Seattle over-dribbled and it resulted in shot-clock violations. The Storm committed 27 turnovers, and in the fourth quarter the home team couldn't get into its offense.
"I think that's the product of a new team," said Bird. "When your backs are against the wall and there's pressure and it's late in the game, you're not always thinking straight. If you were to watch our practices, our offense clicks. It flows. There's no problems.
"We just got a little out of sorts. Their pressure obviously had an effect on that. And we're still a new team with new players. None of this is an excuse. It's just the reality of it."
Jackson thrived in hard-nosed games like this. She would have responded to the Sparks fire. She would have fought. Her physical presence was missed against L.A. and will be missed all the way to the Olympic break.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Agler said. "We've got to keep ourselves in contention for the first half of the season. We feel like we can, but we play a lot of road games. But if you're going to win championships, you've got to win road games."
First you have to win home games. And you can't, you can't, get soft and blow late 20-point leads in your own building.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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