The Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm meet on Thursday at 21:00 ET (Amazon Prime) in the first Commissaris Cup match in Phoenix. Here is part II of our preview, focusing on the Storm.
Seven members of the Seattle Storm won the WNBA Championship last year. Five of them have won two championships together, while the others are coming in 2018. They are no stranger to the idea and get a chance to contribute their trophy cabinet by winning the first Commissioner’s Cup ever.
The cup championship match comes after a long dismissal, the Olympic break, of course, but two-time champion point guard Jordin Canada believes the Storm will be ready.
“Honestly, this team knows each other,” Canada said when asked if she thought it would take a few games to rebuild the chemistry of a 16-5 team in the first place. ‘I think it’s just about getting our game wind back together since we’ve been away for a month. I mean the people who were here, we did very good skills development and made sure we flowed as a second group. “
Canada and its two-time champion, center Mercedes Russell, think the rust will be there, but not for too long.
“Honestly, I feel like the first four minutes might just cause us because we were clearly off for a month,” Russell said. ‘But it would just be nice to get back to speed, game mode. And of course being the first trophy of the WNBA is also exciting. ”
Some of the Storm has actually not been down for a month. Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird won gold with Team USA in Tokyo and Stephanie Talbot and Ezi Magbegor also played as representatives of the Australian national team in the Olympic Games.
Stewart, Loyd and Bird are Seattle’s “big three”, and they took advantage this year well documented. However, defeating the Connecticut Sun Thursday night could come down to other key contributors, such as Canada, Russell and Katie Lou Samuelson.
Canada is an excellent backup point guard known for its speed. She can give a boost to the defense and can always get some great assists or even figures. However, backyard defenders Briann January and Jasmine Thomas will try to disrupt her flow.
“I think for me it’s just being slower and more patient and not really chasing and seeing opportunities where I can drive, opportunities where I can shoot or drive and kick,” Canada said. ‘I think with defenders like that you have to hit first, you have to be aggressive first. But it’s also about using the opportunities where you like them and not necessarily thinking that you should do the same, or accepting that I’m going to do something. Because they are such good defenders, you have to be patient with such players, but also be aggressive. ”
For Russell, the challenge is to exclude the second best rebound team in the WNBA.
“It’s always important to limit their opportunities when you play one of the best rebound teams,” Russell said. “And as a team, I think we did a good job in both games (against the sun), so we’ll have to do well on Thursday night.”
For Samuelson, Thursday night offers an opportunity for her to win a championship during the break, instead of winning gold with the 3×3 USA team. She was supposed to be a member of the roster, but tested positive for COVID and had to miss the Olympics.
“For me, the humanistic quality in me, I felt for her,” said Storm coach Noelle Quinn. “And I just wanted to make sure she’s well. I do not care about basketball, I do not care that she returns to Seattle. I did not want to know anything about it, except that she was fine. And just to make sure she’s in a good heart and mind. “
Samuelson was acquired by Seattle last off-season (along with a second round in 2022) in exchange for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 WNBA draft he received from the New York Liberty. She was brought in to be the fourth best player in the team and help the big three. Could the Commissioner’s Cup be an important moment for her to strengthen her game for the rest of the season?
“She took good care of herself, and when she was able to walk on the track with us, she looked amazing, a dynamic corpse,” Quinn said of Samuelson. ‘Shot flow, understand what we want her to do, very confident and stuff like that. So I think it’s just like the recovery and refreshment she needs to just move forward in a good way and in a good space where we need her to be successful as a team. “
The biggest thing that stands in the way of the Storm is MVP candidate Jonquel Jones. Connecticut head coach Curt Miller praised Seattle’s big try during Monday’s press conference, and Quinn regained that respect.
“Jonquel is a difficult match because she offers points on three different levels,” she said. ‘She can hit around the edge, she can jump in the mid-range, turn-around jumpers, and she has the ability to hit the three-point shot. You also look at what she is doing defensively, blocking shots, long and long. She is an elite player and a player who influences the game on both sides of the floor. And you think of all the great players in our league and ‘how do you stop this player?’ There is no stopping these elite players. The goal is to try to contain them, try to remove them from their sweet spots and just hope that night is not their night.
You can see that she has gotten better every year. She is the heart of the team, just for her presence, to get you a bucket when needed, to help you stop when needed, to get a rebound when needed. She presents a matching nightmare. And our approach is to clearly understand where her strengths are, try to limit the strengths, send bodies, point bodies to her. Press her a little more, take her off the 3-point line, defend her without touching. But I think she did a wonderful job for Connecticut. ”
J. Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones, the Sun’s three All-Stars, will present a challenge, but one thing is for sure: the defending champions will be jobless.
“Clearly this is the first Commissioner’s Cup, and it’s an honor to be a part of something special and to be one of the first teams to be a part of it,” Canada said. “But I think at the same time we treat it just like any other game.”
Noelle Quinn extended
Last Thursday the Storm announced that Quinn will remain as the permanent head coach and for many years to come. Early this season, she took over in the meantime for head coach Dan Hughes, who won the championship in 2018.
“I am super, very honored and very grateful, and I will do every day a way to honor the people who set the tone and the stage for me to be here,” Quinn said.