Before it spread to various points around the world, the storm gathered for the last time Wednesday morning for exit meetings with coach Noel Quinn.
The disappointment of the 97-92 loss to the Las Vegas Aces in the World Basketball Championship semifinals Game 4, which eliminated them from the playoffs, was still fresh in their minds and would linger for days – if not weeks and months – during the holiday period.
“It hurts,” said 35-year-old Brian Jan, who is retiring from the WNBA. “It really hurts to end a season like this with our team. But I am still grateful for a season like this.”
Despite not achieving their goal of winning a fifth WNBA Championship at Storm, Quinn was somewhat optimistic about the resilience of the team besieged by COVID-related absences early in the season, contributing to a 5-5 start.
“It’s disappointing not to complete the ultimate goal, which is to win the championship,” she said. “We’ve accomplished some positive things. There’s some growth in a lot of players. A lot of growth in me as a coach and as a human being. Trying to just focus on that and close the book on this chapter with severance interviews. I’m going to take a few days off, (then) get ready for the off-season. And he resumed preparations for next season.”
In this first review of two seasons, we take a look at two major acquisitions that have gone right and wrong this season for Storm.
Gabe Williams found a home
Admittedly, Williams was nearing completion with the WNBA after an ugly split from Chicago Sky, a contract suspension that forced her to miss the 2021 season and two deals that took her by storm in February.
“I’m not talking about Seattle specifically, but in general my vision of me in the WNBA changed after my year here in Seattle,” she said. “It was complicated in Chicago.
“Now that I spent this year and had so much fun in Seattle, playing basketball, that I wanted to play, grow as a player and play with my great teammates in front of great fans and staff — take care of the way I was — it changed my view of W in general. And it’s my role I wish To stay a part of it, of course if I am able to.”
It took some time, but Quinn has found ways to make better use of Williams, the 5-11 striker who is one of the league’s most athletic and versatile players. The Storm used it as a primary defender and a secondary pitch to start the attack.
Williams compensated for his three-pointers 25% with 111 high-profile assists, which ranked fourth among the WNBA’s forwards behind Alyssa Thomas, Candice Parker and Emma Messman.
Among that quartet, Williams had the second lowest number of turnovers (52).
Williams’ 179 rebounds is the third on the team and ranks second among WNBA players under 6-footballs.
“Gabi is scratching the surface,” goalkeeper Joel Lloyd said last month after Williams reached out to her with a behind-the-back pass to stop the ball during the 89-77 win over Minnesota. “When we go out in transition, that’s a problem.”
However, Quinn gave Williams the highest endorsement when she included her alongside Stewart, Lloyd and Magbigor as she spoke of Seattle’s key players who need to return next season.
Tina Charles did not present a championship
The Storm took a big swing when Charles, who negotiated a contract divorce from Phoenix Mercury, signed it after a chaotic 6-10 start.
Bringing in a 6-4 position as the 2012 WNBA Player of the Year, an eight-time WNBA All-Star and one of the league’s all-time greats should have raised Storm’s title prospects.
In fact, they never got better with Charles.
Before arriving, Storm was 11-7 and fourth in the WNBA standings. During 18 games with Charles, Seattle was 11-7 and finished 22-14 for seed No. 4 in the playoffs.
In the post-season, the Storm went 3-3 and Charles was wildly inconsistent while making a rebound, including setting a Storm record with 18 plates in the first game of the semi-finals.
But Charles struggled with her shot, particularly at the free throw line where it was 4 of 14 in the post-season, including two foul strikes in the final seconds of regulation that contributed to a heartbreaking loss of overtime in Game 3.
On Tuesday night – the biggest game of the season – Charles finished by two points in a 1-7 shot in 23 minutes.
Storm spoke glowingly about Charles, who was the only player to pull out of media interviews on Wednesday.
“I don’t think we’d make the semifinals without her,” said Sue Bird, who helped recruit Charles in Seattle. “I don’t think we would have finished fourth without her. That’s a sign of her talent, but it’s also a sign that no one (Mercedes Russell) can play. You can’t go through a season with three guys. That’s not a reality. It was really hard. We were trying hard. To figure things out for the remainder of the season. … to add a player of her caliber, that’s literally the only reason we got where we are.”
Quinn said, “I appreciated her professionalism and what she brought. Obviously we didn’t finish with the ultimate goal, which was to win the championship, but I thought she acted in a positive way the whole time.”
The move negatively affected Izzy Magbigor’s Rookie of the Year, who was averaging 12.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 30.3 minutes per game before Charles’ arrival.
In the last 15 regular season games, Magbegor averaged 6.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, and 19.4 minutes.
“I had to adapt to the role of the bench,” Magbigur said.
“I feel I could have done more for my team at times, especially at the end of the season,” said Magbegor, who had a hard time adjusting to the bench. “As a professional, you have to be quick to adapt to this role. This is on me. From now on, you have to be able to adapt faster.”
But when it mattered most, Storm, who became the first team to start four first-place draft picks, needed more of her newest star.
“It’s disappointing when you stack a team like this and you get veteran players from compromises, you expect to win,” said quarterback Jantel Lavender, who joined Storm after negotiating a contract divorce from Indiana. “When you come together with a team that has a lot of talent, there is a lot of work that you have to do outside of being a good basketball player. You really have to come together a little bit more. Sometimes the talent that has to be together like all the time gets overlooked. This team came together sporadically. I just think we didn’t have a lot. And that’s important in games like yesterday.”