Media Day for the Seattle Storm took place on Monday, May 13. Several players and coaches were interviewed by the local Seattle media. There were lots of questions about the adjustment to playing in two new arenas this season; KeyArena is currently being demolished to make way for a brand new arena in 2021. How the players spent their off-season or what areas they hope to improve upon heading into this new season. But nothing stood out to me more than the chip on their shoulders.
Despite winning the WNBA title in 2018, multiple players expressed a lack of respect from around the league. The word going around was that the Seattle Storm’s championship run was a fluke.
“Last year, we were first (in the standings) and even after we won the championship, people were like ‘Oh that’s a fluke!’ They didn’t think we were really that good, they felt it kinda just happened. I feel like we’re always the underdogs. We left some people really upset last year, so we’ll definitely have a target on our backs. In my eyes, we’re the champs until someone else beats us!”Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd
Seattle was a league-best 26-8 last season, three full games better than the 2nd place team the Atlanta Dream. The Storm then defeated the Phoenix Mercury 3-2 in the semi-finals of the playoffs before sweeping away the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Finals.
Seattle was first in offensive efficiency (111.1) and second overall in defensive efficiency (101.5). The Storm were first in total assists (721) and second in steals (266). Quite possibly the most important statistic was that Seattle led the league (by a wide margin) in three-point field goal shooting: makes, attempts, and percentage. Seattle shot 307/816 good for 38% from beyond the arc. By comparison, the Las Vegas Aces made just 125/361. The Storm have adapted to a new era of basketball, something we’ve also seen in recent years in the NBA.
With their record and the leading the WNBA in several key statistics in 2018, last season’s championship run was anything but a fluke.
However, this season Seattle will have to do it all without the best player in the world and league MVP Breanna Stewart, which will be no easy task.
On Breanna Stewart’s injury
“Knowing Stewie, knowing that her support staff is here, knowing her mindset. She’s going to come back, she’s going to be fine. I talk to her nonstop. It’s just a shame, the MVP, the best player in the world gets hurt. But it’s an opportunity for all of us to do a little bit more and play hard for her,” said Loyd.
Veteran guard Sue Bird added, “It’ll be an interesting year (without Stewie) because we did win last year and that adds a lot of pressure. People are going to throw their best shot at us because we are the champs. But in a weird way, we’re going to have to reinvent ourselves again. When you’re missing a player like Stewie, I don’t think it’s necessarily one player that steps in and fills her shoes. It’s going to have to be by committee. We’re going to have to find our identity as a team. Focusing on the players we do have. Not getting caught up in conversations about repeating as champions.”
Training Camp Standouts
“I played against Z (Shavonte Zellous), so I know her physicality is something no one wants to deal with. Now that she’s on our team it’s kind of nice. She brings a different intensity level that we needed. She’s been a champion and she knows how to win. She has a new life (in Seattle). She’s super motivated and she has that edge and I think we needed that. We’ve been bashed for being soft and I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year,” Loyd said.
“Lashes (Anriel Howard), she’s on the boards, we saw that a lot today in practice. Her ability to be an athlete is just something you can’t teach. She’s been really good!” Loyd added.
Another player that has impressed is last year’s third round pick Teana Muldrow, according to Sue Bird.
“Teana Muldrow, who we had in camp last year is one. Her and Anriel Howard are two that have stood out a lot in camp so far. They’re big for their position so they can play the three and even the four. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. Their energy is high and have both shown great motors. Anriel has shown to be a much better outside shooter than we even thought. And Teana has shown a lot of growth from her first year to this one.”
Preseason Game 1 versus Phoenix
Seattle faces the Phoenix Mercury Wednesday 5/15 at 7:00pm at Angel of the Winds Arena. This is one of two preseason games before the regular season starts on 5/25 also against the Mercury.
In this game, we will likely get a long look at some of these rookies and training camp players. There appears to be one open roster spot for these younger players in training camp, unless Seattle opts to sign another player that is cut over the next few days. Depending on how players like Anriel Howard and Teana Muldrow perform in these two games might make the difference who earns that final roster spot.
Big WNBA League News
On Wednesday morning the WNBA finally announced that the league has a brand new Commissioner. Cathy Engelbert has been named as the league’s first Commissioner. She replaces President Lisa Borders who stepped down after last season. Engelbert is the current CEO of Deloitte and will start her role in the WNBA on July 17th once her commitment to Deloitte has been completed.
“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth. The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.”NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
You can read the full announcement here: Cathy Englebert named WNBA Commissioner