June 1, 2022 

Chemistry, communication and confidence: The missing pieces for the Storm

Coach Quinn has continued to emphasize the importance of team chemistry

SEATTLE – After three consecutive games that ended in the Seattle Storm pulling out a last-minute win, fans have raised questions about what needs to happen to get the Storm back to their usual championship-caliber potential. The short answer: chemistry, communication and confidence.

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Due to injuries, overseas commitments and WNBA health and safety protocols, players have been in and out of the Storm’s roster, making it difficult to find team chemistry.

“We have yet to play a single game this season with our entire unit. We have players playing different roles, players who just got here, lots of different circumstances,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said.

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After a nail-biting ending to their match against the LA Sparks on May 20, Storm coaches and players were looking forward to a full week of practice before they faced the New York Liberty in a two-game series the following weekend.

“This week is just going to help us with the chemistry we need,” Quinn said following the victory over the Sparks. “Understanding spacing, understanding timing, those things that take rhythm and time. We didn’t really have that in training camp with our group right now, so it’s kind of like you use the week as a mini training camp to go back to the details.”

During that week of practice, the team was finally able to practice as a full unit (minus Mercedes Russell, who is out with an injury) to prepare for their series against the Liberty and the other three home games following.

But more adversity was yet to come for this Storm team.

Just hours before the Storm and Liberty tipped off on Friday, the team received news that Sue Bird and Ezi Magbegor had entered WNBA health and safety protocol and were not available to play in that night’s game. Their teammate, Stephanie Talbot, had entered protocol earlier in the week.

The Storm accounts for five of the eight players across the league who have missed games due to entering health and safety protocol during this 2022 season. For Storm players and coaches, the short-notice news wasn’t ideal, but they knew their team was prepared.

“We just found out this morning about Sue and Ezi,” Storm guard Jewell Loyd said Friday. “This season has started out a little rough for us, but at the same time, everyone in this locker room trusts each other and at the end of the day, we all know how to play basketball…We’re able to adapt on the fly.”

“It’s just resilience,” Breanna Stewart added, “I don’t think you can make this up, everything we’re going through right now.”

The absence of Bird, Magbegor and Talbot put the Storm’s roster at only seven players just eight hours before they were set to take the court against the Liberty. They were scrambling to find a player that could be available for the game that night via a hardship contract with the Storm.

“We’ve really been trying to navigate the health and safety protocols,” said Stewart, who missed two games due to protocol earlier in the season. “Especially to find out all of this on game day and then still be told that we are continuing to play the game and to ‘just find a hardship player.’ It’s incredibly difficult.”

Coach Quinn continued to emphasize the importance of team chemistry for the Storm’s success while finding a hardship player to sign.

“Chemistry matters and it’s important to find players during these times that have a game that matches our systems,” she said.

Luckily, former Storm guard Kiana Williams received the call about coming to Seattle and was ready to go.

“The biggest thing is that Kiana has been here before,” Quinn said, “She has been through our training camp before and I feel really confident in her. The familiarity helped a lot in that aspect and we really lucked out that she’s here.”

Seattle Storm guard Kiana Williams (23) scans the court in the New York Liberty’s 92-61 loss to the Seattle Storm, Sunday, May 29, 2022, at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Wash. (Photo credit: Lydia Ely).

That trust that the coaching staff had in Williams led to big minutes for her in the Storm’s second game of the series with the Liberty. She played 14 minutes and contributed five points, three assists and two rebounds for the Storm in just her second game in uniform. Kaela Davis, another hardship player for the Storm, contributed 11 points on Sunday.

The time in their “mini training camp” along with all of Saturday to practice and gel with the new hardship players paid off. After the overtime win over the Liberty on Friday, the Storm hit the ground running on Sunday and beat the Liberty 92-61.

The key to this big win? Communication.

“Communication was a big key for us,” Quinn said, “Watching film from last game, at first I thought that it was our schemes that weren’t working, but really it was just talking. We’re a group that enjoys one another, we enjoy working together. But the next layer for us is making sure that we are talking constantly and continuously.”

Quinn also mentioned that communication was key to helping integrate the hardship players into the roster: “When players come into a situation where they haven’t had much practice time, just talking through it alleviates a lot of missed cues and missed assignments to get everyone on the same page.”

Communication translated into confidence on the court in Sunday’s game. The Storm’s field goal percentage improved from 34.7% on Friday to 49.3% on Sunday, which Quinn attributed to having confidence to knock down shots.

“We were just in a flow,” Loyd said, “This game, we really didn’t call any plays. We literally just played. Regardless of who is on the floor, we’re confident in each others’ abilities and that’s the best part about this team.”

The Storm bench reacts to a three-point shot in the Seattle Storm’s game against the New York Liberty, Friday, May 27, 2022, at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Wash. (Photo credit: Lydia Ely).

While the team has had their fair share of adversity only eight games into the season, their chemistry, communication and confidence have carried them to a strong 5-3 record.

With three games left in the Storm’s eight-game homestand, players and coaches stressed the importance of using their home court advantage to figure out some of those pieces that have been missing so far this season.

The Storm will return to Climate Pledge Arena on Friday, June 3 at 7 pm PT to take on the Dallas Wings after another week of practice.

Written by Rowan Schaberg

Rowan Schaberg (she/her) is a Seattle native covering the Seattle Storm for The Next. She is currently studying Sports Journalism at Colorado State University.

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