By Virginia Lopez
Over the past two years the WNBA’s Seattle Storm have endured growing pains. Missing out of the playoffs in previous years and a rough start to 2016 had this young team seeking answers to finding wins.
They seemed to begin to find those answers last year when the Storm and the rest of the WNBA took a break as players went to the Olympics.
While Seattle players, guard Sue Bird, center Breanna Stewart and forward Ramu Tokashiki, were away representing their countries the rest of the team continued to practice with apparently great intensity that brought about a missing quality when the trio returned.
“I think that something that our team was lacking prior to the break was this…grit,” said Bird. “This mentality of get it done no matter what.”
Bird pointed out that the team was good when shots were going in and everything was falling their way, but the team didn’t quite know how to answer back when they weren’t playing well and other teams were. So when she returned from the Olympics she noticed “the change”. They had found their “grit”.
“…When I came back I noticed immediately the team just had a toughness about it,” Bird said. “…You know all those little plays that requires that grit now all of a sudden we were making them. And then you add on that our offense was already where it needed to be and I think the combination got us that nice little record and pushed us to the playoffs.”
It’s a tide the team wants to ride into this season and it shows in an intensity and focus the Storm hasn’t had at the beginning of training camp in a long time.
“The best way I think to word it is a head start,” said Bird. “You know we’re ahead of where we were at last year’s first day…The foundation has been placed. We all understand what our defensive schemes are going to be, what our offensive schemes are going to be and now we can just build on it.”
The change is noticeable.
Physically Seattle has added size by bringing in 6’6 center Carolyn Swords and drafting 6’5 center Lanay Montgomery of West Virginia. It’s an area that has been lacking and is now an exciting addition for the Storm.
“She’s [Swords] going to be amazing,” said Stewart. “Just to have another post who’s able to bang, bang down low be a legit five. Help us, especially defensively, [to] contain some of the bigger players in the league and then offensively cleaning up everything in the paint.”
As the players moved about during Media Day at KeyArena the air was filled with a confidence not noticed in a long time at Seattle Center. The Storm players were obviously relaxed and enjoying the new year.
Instead of talking about how young the team was they were talking about experience, chemistry and motivation.
Stewart pointed out the team’s not dwelling on how last season ended, but how they can use that end as motivation to start this season.
“I think that it’s a difference between being over it and then knowing the feeling that we had once we lost,” said Stewart. “We’re not going to forget that feeling because that’s part of our motivation for this year. Losses happen. Now it’s about what are we going to do to not make it happen again.”
Seattle starts preparing for 2017 with their first pre-season game against the Phoenix Mercury at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 3 at KeyArena in Seattle.