Boucek ‘Excited to See Growth’ in Wednesday’s Preseason Opener vs. Phoenix

Ready or not, the WNBA preseason is here. Teams reported to training camp on April 23, and the Storm had a mere 10 days to prepare for its preseason opener against Phoenix, set to take place on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. PDT in Seattle.

And despite missing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Nikki Greene due to commitments overseas, the show must go on for the Storm, and head coach Jenny Boucek said Wednesday’s matchup will unveil the team’s “starting point.”

“We’ll see what gets revealed going against another WNBA team,” said Boucek. “We’ll learn a lot, and that’s the biggest thing.”

Seattle owns an 18-25 mark all-time in preseason games, however, the Storm has mustered a 9-2 record at home in preseason affairs since the 2006 campaign. Last year, the two teams split its preseason swing before the Storm went 2-1 against the Mercury in the regular season, including a 95-81 triumph at KeyArena.

While some players won’t be in action for the Storm on Wednesday, Boucek said it provides opportunities for others to step up, especially those fighting for roster spots.

“We have two main goals in preseason games,” said Boucek. “One is to get our team ready for the season, especially our core group. And the other goal is to figure out who’s going to make this team.”

That core group includes the trio of 2016 Rookie of the Year Breanna Stewart, as well as 2016 All-WNBA First Team selection Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd, who earned a spot on the 2016 All-WNBA Second Team. Stewart led the team in scoring and rebounding last season with 18.3 points and 9.3 boards per contest, while Bird dished out a league-best 5.8 assists to go along with 12.8 points per game. Perhaps Seattle’s most improved player, Loyd saw her points-per-game average leap 5.8 points from her rookie campaign, as she netted 16.5 per game in her sophomore season, including a career-high 32 against Phoenix on June 3, 2016.

Seattle finished 16-18 overall in 2016, but the Storm won five of its last six regular season games on the way to earning the No. 7 seed in the WNBA Playoffs and its first postseason appearance in three years. According to Boucek, that momentum has carried over to this season, and the team has grown from that experience.

“They’ve all taken steps of improvement, both physically and mentally,” said Boucek. “I’m excited to see all of their growth, and I can already see that they’re all starting in a different place than last year.”

As far as the absences of Mosqueda-Lewis and Greene, Boucek said the league’s overlap with play overseas is just another part of the process.

“It’s always been like that,” said Boucek. “We have some unique dynamics in the WNBA, with that being one of them. You just have to go with it.”

Phoenix finished the 2016 season at 16-18 overall, ultimately falling in the WNBA semifinals to Minnesota. The Mercury returns 12-year veteran Diana Taurasi, who needs only 178 more points to become the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer. After Wednesday’s meeting, Seattle will play at Phoenix on Sunday at 3 p.m. PDT to cap the preseason slate.