SACRAMENTO — A throng of television cameras and digital recorders surrounded her after the first day of training camp. Storm guard Betty Lennox was wedged into a corner of the training facility to answer the questions, anchoring a Seattle team then missing its other stars due to injuries or overseas play.
Aside from a change in build, adding muscle to protect her 5-foot-8 frame, not much had changed with Lennox.
She is the team's starting shooting guard, and early in camp it was apparent the flashy shot that made fans gasp was still there.
After a week of regular-season games, however, those gasps have turned to winces. And those shots have yet to make a debut.
Lennox is 1 for 8 from beyond the three-point line in three games and was 5 for 14 overall in a loss to Houston at home. Against Phoenix last Thursday, she had a good shooting night (4 for 8) but didn't score in the second half, leaving her six points shy of scoring her 2,000th point.
Storm at Sacramento
7 tonight at Arco Arena
Radio: KJR (950 AM); no TV
Records: Storm 2-1, Monarchs 2-1.
Bottom line: After a five-day break, the Storm will play three games in five days beginning tonight. ... The Storm went 2-1 against the Monarchs last season and 5-2 the past two seasons, but the Monarchs lead the all-time series 12-8. ... The Monarchs are the league's best defensive team. ... Sacramento coach John Whisenant is being considered for the NBA Kings' coaching vacancy.
Injuries: Monarchs — F DeMya Walker (maternity leave) is out. Storm — None.
"I gotta get Betty back," Lennox said. "I gotta be able to go out and play with that frown on my face, which is a positive. I'm tired of people saying it's a negative. Betty's going to work when she's out there. When it's a free-throw shot, then look at me and I'll give you a smile. But other than that, while I'm workin', I'm workin'. I ain't got time to smile for the camera. If that's the case, I'm going to get hit in the head with the ball."
Perhaps tonight's setting can help.
The Storm (2-1) plays the defending-champion Sacramento Monarchs (2-1) at Arco Arena, where in 2004 Lennox made her mark with the Storm. Seattle, having lost the previous seven Sacramento road games, got a last-second shot from Lennox to seal a 65-63 win. The vibe continued as the Storm won six consecutive games.
Lennox just hasn't been able to peg the problem this season — or if there really is a problem. The team has played only three games, but in her past two seasons in Seattle, Lennox had already posted a dazzling 20-plus point game at this point.
She has mentioned to teammate Janell Burse about getting "touches."
Lennox has continued her routine of staying late after practice to work on her shot. And she's tried to "clear her mind," especially after a traffic accident on May 19 left her with the lasting effects of whiplash.
"Do I feel like myself? Nah, I feel a little stiff still," said Lennox, who has dropped from being the team's second-leading scorer last season (12.4) to fifth this season (9.7). "I didn't think it was going to be lingering on at this point, but you never know about stuff like that. I won't blame it on that. I just haven't got my shine so far. Hopefully it's going to come because I'm working hard to get there."
One issue that's not playing a part in Lennox being overshadowed offensively is the insistence of Storm coach Anne Donovan for point guard Sue Bird to be more aggressive with her shot. Lennox was quoted wondering what her role was if Bird was now the shooter, prompting some to think the backcourt players dislike each other.
"It definitely took some time to get to know each other," Bird said. "But now that we're in our third year, I think we have a hold on what the other one is going to do and when they're going to do it, and just playing with each other. It continues to get better. Betty is somebody who we need in order to win. She's done a great job of accepting more of a leadership role and being more accountable; that's a word that she uses all the time.
"Off the court we text [message] each other all the time to say, 'What's up?' Like the night of the L.A. game [when Bird had seven assists], she texted me, 'Hey, good job tonight!' Betty and I are cool."
And what about the eye-rolling, the looking away when Bird claps for Betty to give her the ball, or scoffing when the two communicate on the court? Both players deny a problem.
"If you really look hard you can find whatever you want to find in any situation in life," Donovan said. "If they lingered with that or there was talk about it, that's when there's something there. But I can say there's nothing there. We're still trying to adjust and settle in. Minutes are a whole lot different right now, so her [Betty's] opportunities have been different than they've been the last two years."
Lennox, a seventh-year veteran, has added to her game while she adjusts to being an increased defensive focus. From play in China, where she was a point guard on a team that spoke little English, she improved her passing skills.
The Storm having more offensive options is an adjustment in itself. The 2004 championship team was strong, but Burse has strengthened her ball-handling to become dependable inside and forward Wendy Palmer nearly adds a double-double off the bench. Lennox not scoring could be because the team is tearing up the paint, as it did in a win against Phoenix, or Bird is picking up steals and running fast breaks, as she did against Los Angeles.
"I'm getting better at setting picks and passing more than I am shooting this year," joked Lennox, who also wants to rebound more. "As long as I can bring things to the game, I think that's a positive. I just need to get things going. But as long as we're winning, that's all that matters."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
|Three games into a season is too early to call it a trend, but Storm guard Betty Lennox, pictured above, averaging 9.7 points, is off to a slow start compared to her first two seasons in Seattle.|