Monday, August 27, 2007
Can't Seattle keep the Storm?
By Jim Caple Page 2
SEATTLE -- As mandated by federal statute (43C US 1492) for all teams trailing late in a game, the Seattle Storm played an inspiring movie clip prior to the fourth quarter of their WNBA playoff opener against the Phoenix Mercury Friday night. "No one, and I mean no one," coach Dan Devine (actor Chelcie Ross) tells his Notre Dame team, "comes into our house and pushes us around."
Of course, the clip would have meant more had the team's owners not spent most of the past year whining about "our house" and threatening to move to a different house in Oklahoma.
Lauren Jackson might have played her last game in Seattle on Friday night.
The possible move of the Sonics has been much debated in Seattle, but that team is guaranteed at least one more season here. That's not the case with the WNBA franchise, however, which may have played its last game here on Friday (it lost the series to Phoenix on Sunday). Which might explain why the fans hung around Friday night to applaud the Storm despite their awful performance in a 101-84 loss.
"I hope they come back but I'm scared this will be the last game, that this really is the last game they play here," Storm fan Katie Gulliford said. "It doesn't look promising. What I'd like to see is to have someone buy the Storm away from the Sonics and have it be a separate entity. I think there's enough support for the team to do that but I don't know who would buy it."
"I'm a season-ticket holder for both teams so I don't want to see them broken up," said Patrick Sheehy. "But being a basketball fan, if it was one team or no team, I'd choose the one team. And I'd choose the Storm for my children. My 3-year-old, Connor, is crazy for Lauren Jackson. She's the first basketball player he could name. Before Ray Allen or anyone else. He can also name Svetlana Abrosimova."
Frankly, I don't think the Sonics are moving. I've listened to ownership threats for most of my life, and they're rarely more than threats. Clay Bennett is a two-faced carpetbagger of the lowest kind -- in other words, a typical team owner -- but the NBA's ratings are too low for the league to allow him to move the Sonics from the country's 12th-largest market to the 44th. And even if the Sonics were to move, the decision probably would occur too late to move the Storm before next season anyway.
Still, you never know. Which is why Sue Bird wondered Friday night if she had played her last game in Seattle.
"I said at halftime that we don't want this to be our last game here and for us to play like this if it is," said Bird, who owns a home in Seattle. "For me and Lauren [Jackson], it has a different kind of feeling because we love Seattle so much and we're more involved in Seattle.
Bird will be a free agent this winter, and likely won't make a decision on whether to re-sign with the Storm until after the team's location for 2008 is determined. Which only makes sense. I certainly wouldn't want to sign up to play in Seattle only to find out later I have to move to Oklahoma City. "It's not to say that I don't have any loyalties to the franchise wherever it plays," she said, "but who knows what all the situations will be."
I agree with Sheehy and Gulliford. I'd rather both the Sonics and the Storm stay, but of the two, I'd pick the Storm. For one thing, I'd rather have the women's team sold to another owner, one who does not expect taxpayers to subsidize team profits to build a new arena, just a dozen years after the city renovated the current arena.
More importantly, with so many males already obsessed with sports here, I'd rather have at least one team that inspires young girls.
"It really means a lot to me to see women play," said Madison Cunning ham, who wore face paint and a wig to Friday's game. "They're like role models."
Women's basketball in the UL.S. is at an interesting stage. Bird, Jackson and Diana Taurasi earn hundreds of thousands of dollars playing in Russia during the winter -- in fact, their Spartak team outside Moscow just hired Pokey Chatman for a rumored half-million dollars to be an assistant coach. Meanwhile, Taurasi is earning less than $50,000 in the WNBA.
Then again, the NBA's finances don't exactly make sense, either.
There is a substantial, loyal fan base for women's basketball in Seattle, and the Storm's fate shouldn't be chained to the Sonics and a snake of an owner. It's time for a divorce.
The Storm deserve a chance to succeed or fail on their own, regardless of what happens to the Sonics.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is at jimcaple.net, with more installments of "24 College Avenue." His new book with Steve Buckley, "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans," is on sale now.