Storm prepares to face defensive pressure from Tulsa
The Storm, still looking for its first win of the season, hosts Tulsa on Friday. The Shock is coached by former assistant Gary Kloppenburg, who will have his team applying pressure defense.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Tulsa @ Storm, 7 p.m.
It was only one season, but Sue Bird won't forget.
Former Storm assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg would walk to the top of the key at the old practice facility in the shadow of the Space Needle, and the players knew what was next. Seemingly endless hard-core defensive work.
"He'd take you back to like sixth grade with those drills," Bird reminisced of her 2002 rookie season, Kloppenburg's last with Seattle before being let go after coach Lin Dunn resigned. "That's (defense) where he really excels as a coach. He would be in those drills with us sweating, dripping all over the place, and diving on the floor.
"He's super passionate about defense and about that aspect of the game, and you can tell."
Kloppenburg reunited with Dunn, serving as an assistant coach at Indiana the past four seasons. This year, he was named coach of the Tulsa Shock, becoming the latest longtime WNBA assistant to become a head coach.
Cheryl Reeve, who won a championship with Minnesota last year, Los Angeles coach Carol Ross and Washington coach Trudi Lacey are others who paid their dues and were rewarded with teams.
Like the others, Kloppenburg's stamp is already being felt. And his is defense.
His Shock is 0-4, after going 3-31 last season. But its losses are by a vastly improved 3.7-point differential, and the team leads the WNBA in turnovers forced at 26.7 per game.
"I'm sure he's happy as hell," Bird said.
Which means the Storm will be in more pressure situations. Winless in three games combined against Los Angeles (4-1) and Minnesota (5-0), the Storm is averaging 21 turnovers, second-most in the WNBA.
Many of the Storm players are new to each other, which explains some of the miscues. But even Bird admitted to overshooting teammates with passes. This week, the Storm's practice players helped simulate the Shock's chaotic style and pressured the Storm's backcourt like Temeka Johnson, Ivory Latta and standout rookie Riquna Williams will on Friday at KeyArena.
"But you're not going to be able to (completely) mimic that until you're in the game," Bird said. "You don't know when they're going to do it and have to be ready at all times. It's not going to be easy (Friday), especially with the way this team plays."
Guards Tanisha Wright and Katie Smith could have the ball in their hands a lot to help Bird handle the anticipated pressure.
The Storm is 8-1 against the Shock since the team relocated from Detroit in 2009. In an exhibition game last month, the Storm committed 39 turnovers in a loss at Tulsa.
"You're going to have turnovers when you're playing basketball," said Smith, who's shooting 50 percent off the bench. "It's trying to limit the unforced ones or the careless ones."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.