The Seattle Storm held a special fan event this past Saturday for season ticket holders. Here are some highlights from the event:
- They are thrilled that Sue Bird has signed her final contract and will retire in Seattle with the same organization that she started with. They feel that's really significant and unique for athletes these days. They credit the fan base for being a big part of her decision.
- Coach Jenny Boucek made comments about how it's been really great to see the transition with Sue. When she played for several years, she wasn't the most dominant leader vocally (her and Lauren Jackson both) and the Storm had to rely on other veteran WNBA players to bring that to the team. But in the past couple years, Sue has really taken up that leadership role both on and off the court. She's no longer playing overseas and she stays in Seattle most of the time and works with the organization.
- On having the #1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft again this year: Alisha Valavanis says they can't legally say who they will select at this time due to league rules. Both Coach Boucek and GM Valavanis are incredibly excited to have the #1 pick and bring in another franchise player to add to the young core they are building.
- When asked if they'd look to acquire an additional pick this year to get a PG to succeed Sue Bird or if they might wait until 2017 to look for Bird's successor, Coach and GM both talked about how they could see there being a lot of activity on draft day. Not necessarily with them, but just with teams in general.
- On Kelsey Plum's game: Coach Boucek talked about how Kelsey's always watching, always in the gym. Gym rat is an understatement for Plum. Not many players have the hunger and work ethic that Plum has.
- On camp invitees Nneka Enemkpali and Blake Dietrick: Nneka is a tough rebounder, but still needs to polish other parts of her game and is coming off a bad injury she had last year. Admittedly, it'll be tough for them to make the team because the roster is pretty set, but both of them will have an opportunity to compete in camp for a spot.
- On the new WNBA President Lisa Borders: She is a huge WNBA fan in general. She played a vital role in getting the Dream franchise to Atlanta, but they don't expect her to be biased (they said in jest). She will focus on marketing and expanding the WNBA to a broader audience.
- On the new schedule: the objective was to get all the teams playing in each market more often. The cross-conference teams (West and East) will now play each other three times a season instead of just two. This allows east stars, like Chicago's Elena Delle Donne, to be in Seattle more than once a year. And with the playoff spots now being awarded to the Top 8 teams regardless of conference, the best teams will be competing against each other and the two best teams (regardless of conference) will play in the WNBA Finals.
- One of the fans asked if Lauren Jackson would ever be coming back. Valavanis assured that she wants to come back, but she's still dealing with injuries. And she may return just to visit and not necessarily to play. She mentioned LJ is also very spontaneous and one day may say she's coming to Seattle to visit and the next day, she decides not to.
- On signing Ramu Tokashiki to a new multi-year contract: Valavanis said this was a huge priority to sign her to a new deal and Tokashiki had let it be known (to her agent and Japanese team) that it was very important to her to sign with Seattle. She has really enjoyed her time with the Storm. There was some concern she wouldn't play with the Storm in the 2016 season because she will be playing for the Japanese national team in the 2016 Olympics, but everyone was thrilled when they were able to work out a deal. Valavanis emphasized that Tokashiki is a big part of the future moving forward.
- Coach Jenny Boucek followed that up by telling a funny story about Ramu's learning curve joining the Storm. She was having trouble knowing when to switch on ball screens and when her teammates would yell switch she didn't get it. So, they asked how do you say "switch" in Japanese and Ramu replied "SWITCH!" (very high pitched voice). Then Tok would yell "SWITCH! SWITCH! SWITCH!" very high pitched. They told her to slow it down and lower the pitch, and then she ended up saying "swiiitch" with a very deep low voice. Boucek added that things were a little slow to start but Tokashiki made up for it with her athleticism and natural basketball instincts.
- Coach Boucek on Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' play overseas this off-season - she said that was playing well in France. But unfortunately she recently injured her elbow and she will most likely miss the next 2-4 weeks but she'll be back before the start of the WNBA season. Boucek also mentioned that back in December she had a conversation with KML and KML told her that she was really starting to fall in love with the game of basketball all over again. Boucek then mentioned that the first year in the WNBA was tough for KML and that she dealt with a lot of pressure coming from college to the WNBA and being a top three draft pick. Boucek also added that she was really impressed with how good of an overall basketball player Kaleena was and not just a terrific shooter (which she was known for).
- Coach Jenny Boucek on all the players overseas - she said they were all doing well. Jewell did well with the Team USA tryouts. She mentioned that Loyd is reading the game better and things are starting to slow down a bit; how sometimes in that first season, she was just a blur (a little out of control). Jenny also talked about Jenna O'Hea improving a lot, especially with her mental aspects of the game and not being worried about taking too much shots or missing shots and letting her teammates down. Markeisha Gatling is playing in Asia. Abby Bishop is working down in Austrailia. Alysha Clark continues to play very well overseas, and her overseas teammates have also noticed her significant improvement over the past year or so.
- The Storm also mentioned that they are currently in negotiations on a new TV contract for local television. They are working with businesses and hope to have a deal signed pretty soon. When a fan asked about getting more road games on television, Storm President and GM Alisha Valavanis mentioned that the league has Live Access and is promoting that (Live Access is similar to NBA League Pass).
- They held a raffle and awarded about a half dozen fans prizes, such as autographed pictures and basketballs.
The next big Storm event will be the WNBA Draft on April 14th, which will be held on ESPN2 at 4:00pm. The Storm hold the first overall pick. The new season tips off a month later on May 14th.