Queens of the court
DAVE BOLING; STAFF WRITER
Coach Brian Agler had given his Seattle Storm team a little break after a lengthy road swing, so when the players reconvened for practice Friday, he worked them hard.
After all, he had seen a number of areas that needed correction and improvement on that trip. Such as?
“Offense and defense,” he said.
Apparently, warm-up drills had been satisfactory.
If you knew nothing about the Storm other than hearing Agler’s comment, you might be surprised to learn it won all three on the road swing to extend its winning streak to a franchise-high 10 games and its record to 19-2 … giving the team an early berth in the playoffs and a stunning 10-game lead in the Western Conference.
But, Agler stressed, this is no time to ease back. And he certainly hasn’t as the Storm prepped for this evening’s 6 o’clock meeting with Tulsa at KeyArena, the first of a three-game homestand this week.
“It’s not something you can get satisfied with,” Agler said after practice Friday. “As soon as you do that, you can take a step backward.”
And so, when he analyzed recent efforts, he saw his players giving up too many second-chance points, and not playing as efficiently as they need to on the road.
Maybe inefficient, but certainly effective. The determined Storm came from behind in two of those, and needed to go to three overtimes to stop Phoenix.
What’s that show? Determination or procrastination?
“In all honesty, we’re a resilient bunch,” guard Tanisha Wright said. “Most of us have been together three years, so our chemistry is great. And we really focus day-in and day-out, facing the task at hand, not looking forward and not looking back, just facing what’s in front of us. If you focus on other things, that’s when it goes downhill.”
They’re so focused, in fact, All-Star forward Swin Cash said she was surprised to hear Agler say the team had secured a playoff berth.
“To be honest, I haven’t really paid much attention to our record,” Cash said. “We stay in the moment. I think one of the great things about this team is we’re very humble. We have great players who have really bought into the system and into what we’re trying to accomplish. So, we have great chemistry.”
Agler said the veteran-laden team’s self-motivation makes his job easier. Cash goes a step further, saying much of the strength comes from mutual support.
“We’re really very encouraging to each other,” Cash said. “Brian doesn’t have to say too much because we’re really on top of things ourselves, encouraging each other, supporting each other. There’s nobody on this team that thinks she’s above anybody else.”
It’s been a steady learning process for Agler and the Storm.
After injury issues led to early playoff ousters in recent seasons, Agler became more aware of the value of resting players at certain points of the season. Cash and Sue Bird, for instance, got extra days off recently.
As for the team, Agler has marveled at the Storm’s personal and collective pride.
“They take a lot of pride in how we try to do things, and over time I think they’ve learned a lot about themselves, as individuals, so, collectively, they’re playing better together,” Agler said.
Still … a 10-game lead in the conference, and a lock on the playoffs with 13 games remaining?
“No, I didn’t envision us being in this position in terms of the separation between first and second,” he said. “I still think things will get real competitive as you get to the end of the year.”
He’s left then, to remind the Storm to focus on new goals. Now, it’s “trying to put ourselves in the best position possible, to get as much homecourt advantage as we can get,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything, but if you look at history, people with the homecourt make it through … if you can stay healthy.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 Dave.firstname.lastname@example.org