The Seattle Storm opened their 2018 WNBA season with an 87-82 defeat to the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday night in a game that offered reasons for optimism while also serving as a reminder of the team’s flaws.
Breanna Stewart filled up the stat sheet with 22 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. Jordin Canada had a nice WNBA debut, finishing with nine points, one assist and four steals. Jewell Loyd struggled to get going, though, shooting 3-of-11 from the field to score 10 points.
The Storm had an opportunity to force overtime late in the fourth quarter. They inbounded the ball down 85-82 with 3.2 seconds remaining in regulation, but Stewart stepped out of bounds to give the ball back to Phoenix and extinguish any comeback attempt.
A little over eight months after their 2017 season ended at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury, the Seattle Storm will open their 2018 campaign at home May 20 against Phoenix.
Before that, the Storm and Mercury will meet twice for a pair of preseason games in May.
To some extent, Seattle’s disappointing first-round playoff exit may benefit the team this year. The Storm could be the biggest post-hype sleeper in the WNBA.
Mechelle Voepel of espnW.com and Brian Martin of WNBA.com both listed Seattle at No. 5 in their preseason power rankings in 2017. Expectations were high, and the Storm got fans even more excited with a 4-1 start to the regular season. Then came a humbling 100-77 defeat to the Minnesota Lynx at KeyArena, and things were never the same for Seattle.
After an uneventful opening day of WNBA free agency, the Seattle Storm made what’s likely to be their biggest offseason splash Saturday, signing Courtney Paris to what they called a “multi-year deal.”
“Courtney brings a presence inside that we have been eager to add to the roster,” Storm general manager Alisha Valavanis said in the team’s press release. “Her ability to rebound the basketball is a great strength. We are thrilled to welcome her to Seattle!”
The move felt especially satisfying after Seattle was almost completely inactive Thursday, while a number of teams throughout the WNBA teased the arrival of their newest signings. The Storm confirmed they re-signed Sami Whitcomb, but that was largely a formality since Whitcomb was a reserve player, giving Seattle exclusive negotiating rights.
Thursday kind of felt like when you hear your friends got to open a present or two the day before Christmas. Sure, you still got your Christmas presents, but it’s not fair that your friends got to spend an extra day having fun.
It’s pretty clear the Seattle Storm need reinforcements after a second straight first-round playoff exit. The trouble is how to go about making the necessary improvements.
The Storm lack any real trade assets. Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird are untouchable, and the same is probably true of Jewell Loyd. Trading the likes of Alysha Clark, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Ramu Tokashiki and Sami Whitcomb would be counterproductive as well, since doing so would create another void to fill in the roster.
Crystal Langhorne is headed for free agency as well, which complicates matters.
Aside from the WNBA draft, free agency is likely to be the easiest way for head coach Dan Hughes and general manager Alisha Valavanis to address the team’s weaknesses.