If you want to know why Shyra Ely made the Seattle Storm’s roster over Barbara Turner yesterday, you have to look all the way back to June 4, 2006. That was the first game Wendy Palmer missed after injuring her Achilles, and the Storm faced a San Antonio team that went small in the second half.
Playing a frontcourt of 6-2 LaToya Thomas and 6-1 Sophia Young, the Silver Stars outscored the Storm 52-41 in the second half of an 89-87 come-from-behind victory. When San Antonio went small, the Storm had no answer. Anne Donovan stuck with her typical frontline of 6-5 Janell Burse and 6-5 Lauren Jackson, and the Silver Stars outquicked them.
Young had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Thomas 15 points and six rebounds and San Antonio pulled down 18 offensive boards.
Okay, Storm Coach Anne Donovan probably isn’t thinking quite so literally about that one game, but she does know that in today’s WNBA, the ability to match up small against certain teams is important. She also knows that size is valuable at a small forward position that includes some players whose size and athleticism make them difficult matchups like Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings and Chamique Holdsclaw (at least during the Storm’s playoff series with L.A.).
Donovan didn’t believe that Turner, two inches shorter than her listed 6-0 height, could play that role for the Storm. Turner played some minutes at power forward last season, but when I asked Donovan about that possiblity this season, she said it wasn’t fair to either the Storm or Turner to play her there except in extreme situations.
That’s what yesterday’s decision was ultimately about. Coach Donovan made no secret of the fact that she was unhappy with Turner for reporting to camp late because of her obligations in Turkey. That absence allowed Ely to come to camp and open eyes with her performance. The Ely we saw in camp was a better player than the one we saw in San Antonio the last two seasons – a better shooter who was aggressively taking the ball to the basket at times and capable of playing both forward positions.
Donovan’s buzzword this season has, for some time, been “versatility.” Tye’sha Fluker at the four might be a little bit of a stretch, but otherwise everyone else on the Storm’s bench can play at least two positions and sometimes three (Ely also played shooting guard during the preseason when the Storm was short of guards, though it’s unlikely she’ll see action there during the regular season).
Turner will be missed after a solid rookie season where her great personality was evident to everyone around the Storm. I look forward to and expect to see her somewhere else in the WNBA this season. For now, however, Ely was the better fit for Donovan.