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5/18/04 vs Phoenix Mercury

Final score: Storm 82 – Mercury 72 (W) (1-2)

Attendance | 4487

Anthem Watch | Generally okay, the Phoenix player who had the hiccups was a little distracting.

Fan Psyche | FINALLY, THE SEASON IS HERE!

Game Highlight | Sue and DT trading 3 pointers, LJ monster rejection

Halftime | Giant inflatable shoe (you had to be there)

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

So did I mention Angie and I moved to a new spot for this season? During the offseason, season ticket holders are allowed to come in and decide whether to keep their current seat location or move to a new spot. When I showed up for our time slot and started checking out the section 113 possibilities, a golden ray of light pierced the upper bowl curtain and illuminated two gloriously open seats. When I saw them, I knew it had to be. I called Ang (via Susie's cell phone, excellent salesperson that she is) and she agreed - we'd find a way to pay.

So other than the fact that we upgraded our seats (big whoop), why is this important? Location, location, location — VIP section 13, row BB, seats 1 and 2 - right behind the Storm bench.

This of course means that my game reports, photos and just about everything else this season is going to have a different perspective.

Like...

Our players are all incredibly polite. You might think that as pro athletes, they wouldn't need to say please and thank you to the helpers who take care of the water, towels, chairs, etc along the bench. Everyone of them did, even after coming off the floor when they got yanked before they wanted to come out or had an altercation with one of the opponents.

Also, I haven't heard anything about Kamila being injured, but it looked like she might be wearing an abdominal or back wrap of some sort.

Coach Donovan doesn't talk a lot, but when she does they listen. She got on the team after one of Taurasi's big shots in the first half, telling them that they had to play her "stronger." She also gave Tully her props when she came off after hitting a couple big time shot clock killing threes. We've all seen her pull a player and sit her down at the coaches' end of the bench for one-on-one coaching. Tonight, she pulled Betty Lennox at one point in the second half (after she picked up her 4th foul I think) and let Betty go down the line getting high fives — and fixed her Coach D Stare™ on Betty the whole trip down the line and the whole trip back. Even I was looking down and trying to avoid eye contact.

Betty had a rough night. She got into foul trouble early and the refs kept on her. She was pretty obviously dropping her shoulder when she was driving through the Mercury defenders (one right in front of us, although I'm not sure Betty could really knock Penny Taylor down even if she was running at full speed). After that foul, she tossed the ball to the ref and started back up the floor and said something like (and I may have misheard) "Just let me play." Either the ref didn't hear or chose to ignore her.

One of the big disadvantages to our new location - there are these tall women who keep standing up in front of us. I unfortunately missed LJ's monster block under the basket in front of the bench because of these insensitive people.

The game itself was really fun to watch, due in part to the fact that the Storm looked a lot sharper than the two previous preseason games made them out to be. The Storm looked, for the most part, to be relaxed and gelling nicely. They did relax a little too much in the second half and allowed the Mercury to get back into it. Maybe you can coast on a 20-point lead with 2 minutes left, but not at 9 or 10 minutes. But, since it's a preseason game, I'm not going to go into a lot of detail. Instead, here are my impressions of how all the players looked.

The Returning Players

Lauren Jackson: She's still adjusting to the smaller WNBA ball? Okay. If she is still getting used to it, does that mean we can expect her to be averaging 40? It didn't look like she had an offseason. LJ was dominant and the Mercury had no one who could guard her.

Sue Bird: Faster, stronger, and having some fun out there. She and Diana were jawing a lot and got into a little 3-point shoot out that had a "oh yeah, can you do this?" tone to it. The good news is that Sue look comfortable running, stopping and moving side to side - A LOT more comfortable than last year.

Kamila Vodichkova: Now she looked like she was having a little trouble with the ball. Other than that (and the possible back stiffness), she looked strong, but was getting called for some ticky tacky fouls. This happened last year too, and I'm not sure why the refs seem to call her on stuff other players are getting away with.

Simone Edwards: For being jet lagged and only practicing with the team for a day or so, Simone did pretty well. She was very active and hit a couple of the chippy shots that she sometimes missed in previous years.

Tully Bevilaqua: Wow. Tully came back in great physical shape (her arms looked a lot more defined than I remember) and with determination. She played some strong minutes and did a good job at the point when Sue was on the bench. She did dribble the ball a little too long on a couple of possessions that I remember, but overall she was sharp and her shot was very smooth.

Adia Barnes: First, it was great to see her back in uniform and back on the court. I don't know where she would put herself in terms of being 80% or 90% of her normal self, but with that huge knee brace she wasn't able to move side to side with the same quickness she had pre-ACL. Personally, I'm amazed that she's back and legitimately competing for her starting spot. She may not be at 100%, but she's close and will be soon.

The Newbies

Sheri Sam: This is me doing a happy dance. With all due respect to Sandy Brondello, I soooooo wanted Sheri Sam from the Miami Sol dispersal. And now she is here. She didn't have a great game tonight, but so what. She is my favorite kind of player - tough, tenacious, fearless, can play defense and score when she needs to. I'm so damn HAPPY!

Janell Burse: I think I likes me some Janell Burse too. She's fast, got loooong arms and is not afraid to get in there are push some butts around. She may not get a starting spot, but she could be starting if the WNBA had more teams. The good news is that when Kamila comes out, we have another starter to take her place.

Michelle Greco: Umm, holy smokes. She already seems to be Coach D's go-to energizer. Every time the Storm were languishing on defense or started to look tired or slow, it was "Greco, let's go" and in she went. You look at her stat line, see 1 TO and 5 points and think "Not much there." You'd be wrong. She may have been the biggest surprise for me of the game. I'd seen her play against Washington a couple times (and light up the Huskies for 30 on one occasion), but that was it. Whoa. She looked like a woman determined to win a spot on the team. Let's hope she can sustain and build on that energy and drive. Count me as a Greco fan.

Betty Lennox: I wrote about Betty a little already. This wasn't a very good game for her. Like I pointed out, she was picking up fouls left and right. I think it was obvious that she's got solid skills defensively and offensively, and perhaps a rep with the refs. I'm not really that familiar with her from her previous WNBA experience, so I'm going to stay open-minded. I think if the fouls stay under control, she will be very dangerous to the opposition.

Alicia Thompson: She also seemed to have some trouble holding onto the ball. I don't know if she's been playing overseas or in some other leagues here in the US, but she didn't seem very comfortable. She also only had a few minutes on the court, so it was hard to really get a read on her. Coach D seems to like her, so I'll wait and see.

Shaquala Williams: Body language told the story with "Shaq." To me, it looked like she had already decided that the waiver notice was on the way and she didn't have much of a chance. Knowing that she has gotten cut (I'm writing this on Monday night), maybe she was right. I'm of the opinion that while you're on the team and breathing, you've got a chance. I didn't see that from her during the game.

Maren Walseth: Also cut on Monday. I thought she did pretty well. She had a couple defensive stops right in front of the bench that I thought were impressive, but I guess that wasn't enough. She too had limited playing time, so it was hard to see what she had to offer.

Andrea Gardner-Combs: Likewise, little playing time and cut on Monday, hard to get a read during the game. All I can say to Shaquala, Maren and Andrea is, "Good luck."

This was a good game, fun to watch and did what a preseason game should - whet the appetite for the regular season to start as soon as possible. I have a good feeling about this...

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