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Originally published May 16, 2013 at 8:06 PM | Page modified May 17, 2013 at 12:10 AM

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New-look Storm readies for season with final exhibition Friday

Liz Cambage announces she'll return for Tulsa, but won't be ready until regular season.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Friday

Tulsa @ Storm, 7 p.m.

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A young All-Star on the visitors' roster is grabbing more attention than the Storm. But it's not rookie point guard Skylar Diggins for Seattle's home exhibition against Tulsa Friday at KeyArena.

Instead, it's Diggins' teammate, Liz Cambage, a 6-foot-8 Australian Olympian. Cambage, the first to dunk in an Olympic women's basketball game, created drama with a will-she-or-won't-she return to the Shock after the London Games.

She didn't, saying she needed to rest. Cambage then signed a lucrative contract to play last winter in China, scoring 59 points in one game, but insisting she wouldn't play in this WNBA season. She averaged 36.2 points and 11.1 rebounds in the league that also featured Storm forward Camille Little.

Thursday, the WNBA spotlight shifted from heralded newcomers Diggins, Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne to Cambage after she announced she would finally return to the Shock. Cambage, a 2011 WNBA All-Star, revealed a broken wrist as the reason she previously thought she had to skip the 2013 season.

"I have been given the all clear by my doctors, and I am excited to return to Tulsa and the team for a great season," Cambage said in a released statement.

She'll miss the team's final exhibition Friday, but should be in the lineup for the Storm's matchup against the Shock on June 7 at KeyArena. If you're keeping score, that's back-to-back dunking 6-8 players the Storm will face in its season-opening homestand. Center Griner and the Phoenix Mercury will face Seattle in the home opener June 2.

Not that any of it matters to the Storm. The team is focused on building chemistry with a revamped roster that is missing injured All-Stars Lauren Jackson (hamstring) and Sue Bird (knee).

"She hasn't played one minute of WNBA basketball, and that's all I'm concerned with," Storm assistant coach Jenny Boucek said of Griner.

Seattle won its opening exhibition game against Los Angeles on Sunday. Captain Tanisha Wright didn't play to rest her knees.

Wright is expected to start at guard alongside new addition Temeka Johnson. Forwards Little, Tina Thompson and Shekinna Stricklen should be the starting frontcourt.

Storm coach Brian Agler most likely won't play the veterans long. His staff is also evaluating rookies and training-camp invitees to pare his roster down by Thursday.

The new faces have made practice interesting for Thompson, a 17-year veteran. Johnson even had to remind rookie point guard Samantha MacKay (Dayton) in Sunday's exhibition that there's a backcourt rule in the pros.

"Our practices are pretty intense as far as effort," Thompson said. "There are little quirky things that come with having a really young team. It's professional basketball. How often does a coach have to remind the team to pay attention?

"It's interesting," Thompson continued. "I haven't been in an environment like that in quite a while. It's definitely going to take some time. I feel the personality of our team is going to be very blue-collar. "

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

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