Seattle Storm 2010 Season Preview
Injuries? Yes. Out of the picture? No.
We continue previewing the 2010 WNBA Season with the Seattle Storm. You can read past previews here.
by Clay Kallam
In a contracted, balanced league, it’s clear that injuries are going to play a major role in how the season plays out. After all, if there’s not much to choose between Team A and Team B, and Team A loses a cog in the machine, then Team B suddenly has an advantage.
And now to the Seattle Storm, who have already seen part of the plan for success removed from the equation: Loree Moore tore her meniscus and could be out for as much as six weeks. The optimistic timeline is a month, but Moore has had serious knee problems throughout her pro career, and the projected backup point guard could well be hampered all summer.
This is of more than idle concern, because Sue Bird, who also has a history of knee problems, turns 30 in October, and can’t be expected to play 35.5 mpg, as she did last year, much longer. With Moore, an experienced and solid veteran to back her up, Brian Agler could have gotten Bird more rest and set the Storm up for a postseason run. Now, however, starting two guard Tanisha Wright must back up at the point, and Australian rookie Alison Lacey will have to be counted on to play a much more major role than expected. And, of course, if either Bird or Wright get injured, then Seattle will be in, so to speak, a world of hurt.
And it’s not as if the Storm is set at every other spot. There’s no true post player in sight, and the fact that Seattle is making encouraging noises about rookie Devanei Hampton (who also has a history of knee problems) is indication enough that there’s really not much muscle in the paint. A healthy Hampton would be a decent rookie, but the Storm need much more than that to take full advantage of the time left to Bird and Lauren Jackson.
Ah, Lauren Jackson, the 29-year-old who many feel is the best player in the world. She too is fragile, and last played all 34 games in 2005. She was out there for 26 games last season, and 21 in 2008, and so keeping her on the court is a high priority for Agler. That said, if Jackson has to play center and bang around in the paint rather than play power forward and avoid some pounding, her chances of playing more games than last year aren’t going to get any better.
There is good news on the wing, however, where Swin Cash seems fully recovered from her back problems. She had her best season since 2004, but she does turn 31 in the fall, so it’s not as if she’s in the prime of her career either (statistical studies have pretty much identified age 27 as the most likely age for a peak performance).
Camille Little, stolen from Atlanta, has emerged as a solid if undersized power forward, so she’s fine up front – though the Storm would be much better if she were the third member of the post rotation instead of the starter.
And speaking of undersized forwards, Ashley Walker could be primed for a breakout season after being hurt (sense a theme here?) most of her rookie year. The biggest improvement usually comes between seasons one and two, and it would help if Walker can absorb 15 minutes a night in the post rotation.
After that? Well, perennial disappointment Svetlana Abrosimova will take a shot at backing up Cash, and Le’Coe Willingham will try to reprise her role as a surprisingly effective 6-0 post – but the Storm are a much more traditional team than Phoenix, where Willingham thrived last season, and it’s unclear whether she’ll be able to be as effective for Agler.
The bright side, though, is that if the Storm rotation suffers no more injury assaults, then the combination of Bird, Jackson and Cash is good enough to win a lot of games – and if Little improves, Wright holds steady and Willingham, Walker and Abrosimova add value, Seattle will be a very difficult team to beat. After all, there’s no pair of players as good as Bird and Jackson in the West, or in the league for that matter, and if they’re out there for 30+ minutes in postseason, the Storm don’t need too much else.
They do, however, need some help, and if Cash’s back gets balky, or Walker’s knee prevents her from developing, or anything bad happens to Wright or Willingham, Bird and Jackson won’t be able to carry the load all by themselves.
In the end, Seattle’s fate will be decided by the first column in the stat sheet: Games Played. If they get 30 or more games from their key players, and Moore returns for 15, the Storm are championship caliber. If not, they’ll wind up as Playoff cannon fodder.