Katie Smith rejoins coach Brian Agler
Veteran guard Katie Smith was dealt from Washington, along with second-year forward Jacinta Monroe, to Seattle on Friday for 2011 first-round draft pick Jasmine Thomas and a 2012 first-round pick. The Storm also sent guard Erin Phillips and a 2012 third-round pick to Indiana, in return for a second-round draft selection next year. Then to complete the three-way deal, the Fever sent a 2012 third-round pick to Washington.
Smith was in position to do what she most wanted as she's in the twilight time of her basketball career. And while it took some negotiating and flexibility from all parties to get this deal done, Smith's relocation via trade to Seattle makes good sense for her and the Storm.
"It is kind of a new beginning," said Smith, a future Hall of Famer and veteran guard of 12 WNBA seasons. "Every year after the season, you evaluate where you are. You see how things are playing out: body, mind, and spirit. I was pretty sure all along I was going to play again this season, and I've always been a fan of Seattle in the sense of the city. It's been one of my favorite places to play in and visit."
The 5-foot-11 Smith will be 37 in June, but is in great shape. She did not play overseas this winter.
"Her value to a team is more than statistics," Seattle coach Brian Agler said. "She also impacts the quality of play for a team. She fits in very well for us."
It means Indiana has another Australian guard, with Phillips replacing veteran Tully Bevilaqua, who's now with San Antonio. And the Mystics once again have a point guard from Duke, albeit a rookie in Thomas instead of fifth-year pro Lindsey Harding, who wanted out of D.C. and was dealt to Atlanta earlier this month. Washington needed a point guard, but all that responsibility won't be on Thomas.
After their most successful season and winning the Eastern Conference for the first time, it's hard to believe the Mystics needed much of a makeover. But things still went a little haywire last fall. General manager Angela Taylor and coach Julie Plank departed, and Trudi Lacey came in to fill both roles.
Subsequently, Harding let the organization know she didn't want to return. Her former Duke and Mystics teammate Monique Currie tore her ACL and will miss this season. And another ex-Blue Devil, Alana Beard, is back for the Mystics after missing last year season with an ankle injury, but there are questions about whether she'll really be at 100 percent this summer.
The Mystics' various moves have brought them some needed youth inside, with Nicky Anosike and first-round pick Ta'Shia Phillips both acquired in trades. Washington has talent, but there are several things for the Mystics to figure out, not the least of which is team chemistry.
But most things should be firmly in place for defending WNBA champion Seattle, which brings back its key players and in Smith adds another savvy veteran that Agler wanted all along.
"We've been friends forever," said Agler, who coached Smith on two championship teams in Columbus, Ohio, during the ABL's brief existence in 1996-98 and also during part of Smith's time with the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx. "I think a lot of teams have wanted Katie Smith. Her desires at this point in her career were this type of situation. There are a lot of familiar faces for her here in Seattle."
Besides Agler, those include Storm assistant Nancy Darsh, who was Smith's college coach at Ohio State, and Smith's former U.S. Olympic teammates Sue Bird and Swin Cash.
Smith and Cash played together on Detroit's 2006 WNBA title team. Smith also won a WNBA championship with the Shock in 2008. She went to Washington last year as a free agent after the Shock relocated to Tulsa.
Smith was a success for the Mystics, averaging 9.5 points and 2.6 assists, while also being an anchor on defense and with her leadership. For her WNBA career, Smith has averaged 15.2 points and 2.8 assists. She used to be a more explosive scorer, and can still have big offensive games. But it's her overall presence on both ends of the court that is most desired by Seattle.
Smith, taking advice from then-Shock coach Bill Laimbeer, got very fit when she came to Detroit in an infamous trade with Minnesota in 2005. None of the players the Lynx got in that deal for Smith had any significant impact on the franchise. Smith is still an impact player in the league six years later.
"We don't want to wear her out at this stage in her career, but we also don't want to wear out Sue, Swin and Tanisha [Wright]," Agler said. "And having Katie in the mix helps us avoid that."
Smith said the fact the Storm just won the WNBA title was not a big factor in why she wanted to be in Seattle. Rather, it was more having a comfort level with everyone there.
She and Darsh got along well when Smith was a Buckeye star in the 1990s. She and Agler have always had a good working relationship at the pro level. And she respects the veteran core of the Storm, led by Bird, Cash and last season's league MVP Lauren Jackson.
"I still feel I have a lot to offer," Smith said. "And it will be fun to share the load and have very capable basketball players. And coaches that know what they are doing, where defense is a staple.
"I'm looking forward to it. I think there's a confidence thing there. I have a lot of confidence in Sue, Swin, Lauren and the others there. And I think they will feel the same way about me. So it's like, 'Hey, we can get this done.'"
Mechelle Voepel cover women's basketball for ESPN.com.
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