The new Storm: Taking things one day at a time

By MARK MOSCHETTI, Seattle Storm

SEATTLE – A pair of new team members with All-Star credentials, a brand-new facility to practice and train. A new season. A new outlook.

And how is Seattle Storm coach Noelle Quinn approaching all of this newness?

By keeping it simple …

… and not being in a hurry.

“Because we have a lot of talent, my mind goes to, ‘We can do this and we can do this,’” Quinn said. “But at the end of the day, there is beauty in simplicity I want them to feel comfortable with putting them on the floor where they can be successful.

“To be able to (combine) elite athletes who want to compete at a high level with young athletes who got a lot of reps, it’s a recipe for something that can gain success,” Quinn added. “But I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

“One day at time” will take on a heightened sense of importance this week as the Storm tip off their 25th WNBA season. Up first is a home-and-home set with Western Conference rival Minnesota. The Lynx visit Climate Pledge Arena on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., then will head back to Minneapolis for a return visit from Seattle on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Last year’s Storm squad had a new look following the retirement of legendary Sue Bird (now a part of the team’s ownership group) and the departure of former MVP Breanna Stewart to New York via free agency.

That opened the door for guard Jewell Loyd to emerge as the league’s premier scorer. Her season total of 939 points eclipsed the previous mark of 860 set by Diana Taurasi of Phoenix in 2006.

It opened the door for Ezi Magbegor to develop into a first-time All-Star, as she averaged 13.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocked shots per game.

It opened the door for rookie Jordan Horston to find her footing, as she averaged 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in playing 36 of the 40 games, with 17 starts.

For all those positive developments (and several others), the Storm still finished 11-29. Another new look would be forthcoming as they sought to return to their customary spot among the league’s playoff contenders.



But what would that “new look”, look like?

It certainly would include Loyd, who signed a two-year contract extension the day before the season ended. It would include Magbegor, Horston, Mercedes Russell, and Sami Whitcomb.

During the first five days of February, that new look became much more pronounced, point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith signed on Feb. 1, the first day of free agency. Just four days later, former league MVP Nneka Ogwumike signed.

Just like that, the Storm had two more All-Stars aboard: Diggins-Smith with her career averages of 16.7 points, 5.0 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game (though she missed the 2023 season on maternity leave) and Ogwumike with hers of 16.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and .545 field goal shooting in 12 seasons, all with the Los Angeles Sparks, including a league title and MVP award in 2016.

“The challenge is accelerating the synergy and chemistry within a week and a half or two weeks,” Quinn said during the early stages of training camp. “I’ve challenged my team to do a lot of that chemistry building off the floor. So what happens in the locker room, the weight room, outside of this building, is very important. What happens in this building is important outside of the basketball court, getting them to know each other.

“At the end of the day when we know we’re in this thing together, we play harder for each other,” Quinn continued. “If we can get the chemistry accelerated, I feel like the on-court stuff will be accelerated, as well.”

Quinn already has been seeing some of that between Loyd and Diggins-Smith.

“I liken it to a family reunion,” she said of the former Notre Dame teammates. “You don’t see your family for some time, but when they come back, it’s all love. Obviously, it’s business, as well, because we’re on a mission to try to compete at a high level – basketball is our job.

“They’ve won a lot together. They’re at different points in their lives – Sky is a mom, Jewell is a businesswoman and has done so many great things in this organization. I think it’s great to see that chemistry.”

During their introductory press conference with Seattle media in February, Ogwumike and Diggins-Smith made it clear this is still Loyd’s team. But already, the leadership of the three together has been coming through in the few short weeks leading up to Tuesday’s opener.

“Jewell had to step up her leadership (last year) in a way she hadn’t had to in her career. She got experience with it and found her voice and understood what leadership looked like for her,” Quinn said. “Now you bring in two amazing players and their presence is felt just by being on the court, but also with their voices and how they lead.

“Their leadership fits with Jewell’s leadership. Jewell may lead one way, Nneka may have another way, as does Skylar. Right now, what I’m seeing is complementary leadership.”



That All-Star foursome of Loyd, Magbegor, Diggins-Smith, and Ogwumike certainly is enough to get people’s attention.

But the Storm will need more than just that “Core Four” to rack up the 20-plus wins that will be needed to get back into the playoff picture.

They’ll need Horston to continue elevating her game beyond that which earned her a place on last year’s All-Rookie team.

They’ll need Russell to maintain the kind of play that she brought during the second half of the 2023 season, when she was regularly back in double-digit minutes, averaging 21-plus per game along with 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds over the final 18 games.

They’ll need Whitcomb to keep doing what she already does so well by providing a scoring spark – often with timely downtown daggers – plus her defensive energy and intensity, and her cool-headed leadership that comes with seven years of experience, five of those in Seattle.

Others expected to contribute after surviving the rigors of training camp, a pair of exhibition games and the always difficult final cutdown decision to make the 11-player roster include second-year forward/center Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu, who started 21 of her 33 games last year. In fact, she double-doubled in her first two career starts (12 points, 14 rebounds at New York on July 8, then 12 points and 11 rebounds at Washington on July 11) and became a regular in the first five thereafter.

Also part of the final 11 are veteran guards Kiana Willams, who had two previous brief stints with the Storm (10 games in 2021 and three in 2022) and Victoria Vivians, who came over from Indiana after averaging 7.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in five season there (2018-23).

Nika Mühl will be the only rookie. The six-foot guard from Connecticut, a native of Croatia, was taken by the Storm in the second round of last month’s draft, the No. 14 overall selection. She didn’t play in the exhibition opener against L.A. in Edmonton, but was on the floor for 20 minutes in the home exhibition against Phoenix on May 7, chipping in six points on 2-of-3 shooing (with one make from downtown), three rebounds and two assists.

“That’s how you want camp to be: competitive and have those tough decisions to make,” Quinn said. “Knowing we’re in a good spot, we have to keep the best roster that we can.”



With that roster now set, the Storm will embark on a schedule that finds them on the road for 10 of their first 15 games. In fact, the stop in Minnesota on Friday is the first of a three-game trip that ends with back-to-backs at Washington and New York next Sunday and Monday, May 19 and 20.

Then in a span of nine days, Seattle will see Indiana and Caitlin Clark twice (home on Wednesday, May 22, and at Indy on Thursday, May 30) and Chicago with Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso once (May 28 on the road). That 10-in-15 road stretch also includes two trips to Las Vegas (June 7 and 19)

The Storm then have nine straight at home from June 23 through July 14. After a stop in Los Angeles on July 16, the league shuts down for a month for the Paris Olympics. In fact, that July 14 home contest against Atlanta will be Seattle’s last in Climate Pledge until Monday, Aug. 26 when the Washington Mystics come to town.

Regardless of who, when, or where on the schedule, Quinn knows she can’t promise a win every time. But she can promise how her team will try to get as many of those W’s as possible.

“We’re going to be a locked-in team on both ends of the floor,” she said. “Our identity first and foremost is being sharp in what we do, being prepared, being focused.”

And being patient.

“There’s some reality to the fact that we’re new and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Quinn said. “But my encouragement is that we’re going to be disciplined in everything and be competitive in the way we approach every single day.

“We don’t want to peak to fast,” she added. “But we want to get better every single day, every single chance we get to step on the floor.”