The WNBA Finals are just two days away, but you wouldn’t know it from the business-as-usual mentality during the Seattle Storm’s practice at Seattle Pacific University. Afterward, Lauren Jackson went through her usual shooting drills while Svetlana Abrosimova and Abby Bishop played members of the practice squad 2-on-2. Swin Cash and Tanisha Wright competed to see who could score the most often 1-on-1 against teammate Ashley Robinson, trading barbs and trash talk in the process.
“There’s going to be so much intensity in practice,” said Cash. “It’s good to get your shots up and still be able to enjoy it, have a little competition after practice. Keeps you loose.”
That’s the goal from a Storm team that doesn’t want to lose the focused mentality that has been so successful all season long. Cash, a veteran of three Finals and two championships in Detroit, knows how to approach playing on the league’s biggest stage.
“I try to keep the same in regards to what I’ve done all season long,” she said, “but obviously there’s more of a focus and you try to minimize distractions. I understand what it takes to get it done and the intensity level that’s going to come with the play on the floor. You just prepare yourself for that.”
Cash has been good about sharing her experience with teammates like Wright who are here for the first time.
“She’s really good at letting us know about keeping the distractions at a minimum, trying to stay as relaxed as possible, focused at the task at hand,” said Wright. “You’re not really thinking about the whole picture but taking it one step at a time.”
Still, it’s impossible to completely ignore the hoopla that surrounds the WNBA Finals, like the event Friday morning during which Storm players and coached raised a flag atop Seattle’s Space Needle.
“Any time you get to the Finals or play in Final Fours in college or in Europe, every time you get to the finals, there’s a vibe, a feel surrounding it,” explained Sue Bird. “Even though you do think business as usual, you’re very aware of the other things that are happening around you. It makes it very exciting, but at times it can make it hard to focus, so you have to do a good job of remembering why you’re there.”
“It’s a feeling that I’ve never had before, so there’s definitely excitement,” added Wright. “At the same time, if you get this close, you want to take it all. You don’t want to leave anything for thought. You want to go out there, give it your all, and hopefully you’ll be hoisting a trophy at the end.”
Ultimately, that’s the thought that drives the Storm. Though the team has already accomplished a great deal this season, there’s one enormous goal left in sight.
“It’s a unique situation,” said Head Coach Brian Agler. “It’s why you’re in the business as a coach and a player. You’re in the business to get these opportunities. Both teams have had really great seasons to this point, and I think both teams want to finish it off the right way.”
“The mentality changes,” noted Jackson, “just because you want to win a championship. We’re just looking forward to it. I think everyone’s going to go in preparing the same as every other game this season; it’s just there’s a lot more weighing on it.”