Storm faces 2013 season that will be 'test of character'
The team will be without Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson for the first time since 2002.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Key datesSunday: First day of training camp, at Royal Brougham Pavilion, at Seattle Pacific.
May 12: Exhibition game, vs. Los Angeles, 1 p.m., at Long Beach, Calif.
May 17: Exhibition game, vs. Tulsa, 7 p.m., KeyArena.
May 23: Deadline to cut roster to 11 active players.
May 24: WNBA regular season begins.
May 26: Storm season opener, at Los Angeles, 5:30 p.m.
June 2: Storm home opener, vs. Phoenix, 6 p.m.
July 27: WNBA All-Star game at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena.
Aug. 15: WNBA trade deadline at 5 p.m. PT.
Sept. 14: Storm regular-season finale against Tulsa at KeyArena.
Sept. 15: WNBA regular season ends.
Sept. 19: WNBA playoffs begin.
Oct. 16: Latest possible date for WNBA Finals.
The Storm season will start the same way it usually does.
Training camp will open Sunday. The team will meet with coach and general manager Brian Agler to discuss expectations. Then the players will run through a two-hour session at the Royal Brougham Pavilion practice facility.
But for the first time since 2002, the Storm will prepare to play an entire season without Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, who are out with injuries.
The Storm has 11 new faces on its 15-player training-camp roster.
"This season is going to be a test of our character, for sure," Storm forward Camille Little said.
The Storm and the Tulsa Shock are the only WNBA teams that will begin training camp with just one All-Star on their rosters. Seattle's is 17-year veteran Tina Thompson, the WNBA's all-time points leader.
"We've played a lot of games without Lauren," Agler said of the franchise's leading scorer, who has played just 22 games the past two seasons due to the Olympics and injuries. "We haven't played as many without Sue, so that will be a new experience for us. But we're going to start training camp with a group of people I feel can be competitive."
Jackson and Bird knew in December of their injuries and spoke with each other about possible plans for surgeries before deciding to undergo procedures. Jackson had successful right-hamstring surgery in January. Bird was told she couldn't do further damage to her left knee by playing this offseason in Russia, where she helped her team win the domestic-league title. She will undergo surgery to remove a cyst in her knee on Thursday.
Jackson communicated with most of her teammates regarding her plans and was sheepish in recalling a conversation with former teammate Ann Wauters.
"I hoped she was playing, since I'm not," Jackson said.
Instead, Wauters is completing a season in Turkey, vying for league title with Galatasaray, and will not return to the WNBA. She and her wife gave birth to children in 2011 and wish to return to their native Belgium to raise the family.
Seattle waived Wauters, whose contract would have expired this year. Jackson's contract was suspended, and she'll forgo her guaranteed $107,500 pay, so it won't count against the Storm's $913,000 salary cap.
Bird's $107,500 in guaranteed pay does count against the cap, and she counts toward the maximum 11-player roster because she's rehabilitating in Seattle. She'll have surgery in Connecticut and return when she's able to travel. Bird said she'll be on crutches for six weeks.
The Storm didn't seek to retain All-Star Katie Smith and Russian star Svetlana Abrosimova.
Polish center Ewelina Kobryn's status is uncertain, as she will miss training camp to participate in her sister's wedding.
"With Ewa, it's really important that she's part of training camp because her natural language isn't English," said Agler, "and it's more difficult to get somebody in like that midseason."
Agler added: "We have to see if it's worth our while to move forward with her."
The 6-foot-4 Kobryn would help the Storm's lack of depth inside. She averaged 13.3 minutes and started six games in 2012.
Despite the changes, Agler and returning starters Little and Tanisha Wright don't expect the Storm's style to change. Seattle still wants to run in transition and was one of the WNBA's better defensive teams in 2012, holding opponents to a league-low 71.6 points.
But the Storm had trouble scoring (71.2 points per game), rebounding (31.9) and taking care of the ball, averaging 17 turnovers.
"It's hard because you always plan, 'This is what we're going to look like,' but things change," said Smith, who played two seasons in Seattle. "The way Brian is, it won't affect the way things go in practice or the mentality. And Tanisha, Camille and Tina will be out there doing work like they always do."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org