Surely that doesn't apply to the Storm. The team won a championship in 2004, Seattle's first major title since 1979. If anything, expectations should be raised. But coach Anne Donovan is slightly cautious as she heads into her fourth training camp.
Unlike the post-championship season, six of her top seven players are returning and three of her superstars — Lauren Jackson and Betty Lennox — are under long-term contracts.
It's just that finicky bench, on which the Storm has relied to win the title or simply back up guard Sue Bird through two broken noses, that's causing Donovan to question her depth.
The Storm signed eight free agents this offseason, and only forward Wendy Palmer played in the WNBA last season. Not that Donovan hasn't dusted off a castaway and made a player in the past — retiree Alicia Thompson was out of the league when the Storm signed her in 2004 and last season Iziane Castro Marques returned to take over a starting role.
Yet, as the league enters its 10th season with one expansion team in the Chicago Sky, the days of finding a gem who's off the league circuit are shrinking.
"It's gonna be real interesting," said Donovan of her test case of players trying to break onto the Storm roster. "We thought they had enough talent to be in the league, but I keep telling myself to lower my expectations because all of them have been players that I've really watched and liked and feel like they could help significantly.
"But the question is when you're out of the league what are you doing, not just physically but mentally? What does that do to your psyche as you come back into a training camp? They're all wild cards."
It seems height would give any woman a spot on the Storm roster after the departure of Suzy Batkovic, a 6-foot-4 center, Natalia Vodopyanova, a 6-3 forward, and Thompson, a 6-1 forward. That gives Oregon native Lindsey Yamasaki some hope, although she's not getting overly excited either.
Yamasaki, a 6-1 forward, tore her right Achilles two weeks into the San Antonio Silver Stars' training camp last summer. It was her third stop after being selected by Miami in the second round (29th overall) of the 2002 draft. The Stanford alum was cut by New York before the 2004 season.
"I try not to go into a camp anxious," said Yamasaki, who also played in the four-team NWBL and overseas in Turkey. "The only time that I was waived was New York and I think that I was putting so much into it that I was heartbroken when I got cut from the team. Not that I wouldn't be if I was again, but I think I realize now more than ever that it is about personnel and it's not a personal attack, that I'm not a good enough player for the WNBA. It's do they need my type of player? If I keep that mindset, I think I'll keep my sanity."
While in rehabilitation, Yamasaki worked as a wedding planner and assisted in the Cardinal alumni office.
In December, she played for the NWBL's San Jose Spiders, playing against WNBA vets such as Ruth Riley (Detroit) and Cathrine Kraayeveld (New York). Yamasaki averaged 9.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 14 games with San Jose.
Experience, along with defensive skills, is what past coaches harped on Yamasaki to gain. But while trying to improve, she struggled to pay bills.
"It's so hard when you're kinda in the lower end of the WNBA and overseas I haven't made a big name for myself, so financially, taking this time off and not getting paid for it was hard," Yamasaki said. "I need to play basketball in order to make money."
New Storm assistant Heidi VanDerveer believes Yamasaki, 25, has a shot at returning to a WNBA roster. VanDerveer is also making a return to the league after coaching in Minnesota (2000-02) and Sacramento (1997-98).
"She [Lindsay] is in very good shape," VanDerveer said recently. "She can shoot the ball, post up smaller people and take bigger people outside. But I think the level of play continues to get better. There have always been great players like Cheryl Miller or Candace Parker, but I think there are more players with more versatility.
"It's hard because the game can kind of pass people by because the level of play is so high. It's not like Burger King where's there's a zillion teams. You've got to be in great shape and really listen to what Anne is saying and do it. It's very hard, not impossible. No one is going to turn away a great player."
So the question is, are one of the Storm's eight great?
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Player in waiting|
|The Storm signed eight free agents so far this offseason. Only forward Wendy Palmer played in the league last season, starting for the San Antonio Silver Stars. The remaining seven are hoping to break in after a year's — or longer — absence. Here's a look at those players and a little about what they've been doing.|
||New Mexico '03|
|Played for Minnesota in 2003; Spokane native.|
||South Carolina '02|
|Played for Minnesota in2002; recently played in Israel(16.4pts.,10.4reb.).|
|Played for Houston from 2000-04; now in Poland after playing in Slovakia.|
||North Carolina '05|
|Was undrafted in 2005; was an undergraduate assistant coach for Tar Heels|
|Played for Sun in 2004; an assistant at Va. Commonwealth this offseason.|
||UC Santa Barbara '04|
|Height equals coach Anne Donovan; currently playing in Turkey.|
||Texas A&M '04|
|Has decided not to report to camp, expected to be waived on Monday.|
|Rehabilitated a torn right Achilles; played for the NWBL's San Jose Spiders.|
|— Jayda Evans, Seattle Times staff reporter|