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Storm sign Swoopes to contract for '08 season

3/3/2008 - WNBA Seattle Storm

SEATTLE -- Sheryl Swoopes is bringing her MVP awards and gold medals to the Seattle Storm.

Swoopes, who helped the Houston Comets win the first four WNBA championships and is one of seven players to have been part of all 11 WNBA seasons, signed with the Storm as a free agent on Monday.

"I just wanted a fresh start, and if this was going to be my last year, I wanted to go out on top," said the 36-year-old Swoopes, who is coming off of back surgery last October and now says she feels no more pain. "Any time you deal with an injury, you don't know how you're going to be able to come back from it. Once I had the surgery and everything felt better, it became a matter of, 'OK, what am I going to do?'

"Houston is home to me, and it will always be home," added Swoopes, a 6-footer who can play in either backcourt or frontcourt. "But I'm ready for a new phase."

Swoopes signed a multiyear contract. The specific contract length and financial terms were not disclosed.

She was the second recent big-name pickup by the Storm, purchased last month by a local ownership group to ensure the team's future in Seattle. The Storm recently acquired All-Star Swin Cash in a trade with the Detroit Shock.

Swoopes, who has won three MVP awards and three Olympic gold medals, will join All-Stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird on the Seattle roster. Jackson is a two-time MVP.

"There aren't many, if any, players who are better than Lauren," Swoopes said. "Teams are going to have a hard time deciding, 'OK, do we double-team Lauren and leave Sheryl, or do we double-team Sheryl?'"

But new Storm head coach Brian Agler said signing Swoopes, a six-time All-Star, doesn't necessarily give his team an added advantage in the rugged Western Conference. The West includes defending champion Phoenix. In addition, perennial power Los Angeles will welcome Lisa Leslie back to its lineup this season.

"To me, it's sort of trying to keep up with the Joneses a little bit," Agler said. "We have excellent talent, but most of the teams in the West have excellent talent. It's more about what we can do collectively than about us as individuals."

Swoopes' back injury limited her to just three games with the Comets last season. She averaged just 7.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. Her career average is 16.8 points and 5.1 rebounds, and she ranks fourth on the career WNBA scoring list with 4,399 points. She is also the career steals leader with 589 and is a three-time winner of the league's defensive player of the year award.

"I'm as excited about what she can do defensively as at the offensive end," Agler said.

Swoopes said she doesn't know if she will play in Beijing this summer with former Storm coach Anne Donovan's U.S. Olympic team.

"I haven't made a decision," Swoopes said. "My focus is to come back to the WNBA and be the best player I can be."