Less than 21 hours until Opening Night … .
Storm Coach Anne Donovan was asked after today’s practice about her rotation tomorrow night. Donovan said she isn’t sure. Here’s what she – and therefore we – know. Rookie Katie Gearlds will be the first perimeter player off the bench, and Wendy Palmer the first post.
The big question mark Donovan raised was how much Tanisha Wright will play. Donovan has mentioned a couple of times that she wants to play more pressure defense this season.
It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention (even here), but the WNBA moved to an eight-second backcourt rule to align itself with the NBA – down from the previous 10 seconds. That makes full-court pressure a better gamble than it was before.
Anyways, the amount of full-court defense the Storm plays will affect how much Sue Bird is able to play. Also, Wright is the better defensive option when it comes to full-court pressure.
Donovan didn’t specify who else would be part of the rotation, but my assumption is at least nine players will see action, meaning one of Shyra Ely or Ashley Robinson will likely see time.
On the eve of her WNBA debut, Gearlds indicated there is no nervousness whatsoever.
“Not at all,” she said. “If there was any, I think the preseason got that out of the way. I’m not a player that usually gets nervous. It’s something we’ve been doing all our lives – it’s just a different level. I’m ready to get after it.”
Gearlds said she definitely watched the Comets growing up, when Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson – along with Cynthia Cooper – led Houston to the league’s first four championships. Gearlds respects the players she’ll be playing against, but isn’t intimidated by them.
“I can’t be star-struck and I’m not going to be,” Gearlds said. “Obviously, both teams are going to be competing for the same thing, and that’s for a win. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sheryl Swoopes or one of my teammates from Purdue – I’m going to go out there and do what I can to win.”
Donovan spoke for the first time about the decision to keep Ely over Barbara Turner for the Storm’s 11th and final roster spot. She pointed out that, if Palmer is out, neither Robinson nor Tye’sha Fluker really has the ability to play the high post. Ely offers that option; again, Donovan was unwilling to use Turner in that role.
“It was difficult because we love Barb, she’s been in our system for a full year,” said Donovan. “It was tempered by the fact that she put herself in a very difficult situation – coming back so late – and having absolute conviction that Shyra’s versatility is definitely what we need right now. As difficult as it was, there’s no doubt it was the right decision for the team.”