The final score is clearly not what's most important about the Seattle Storm's 76-71 preseason win over the Tulsa Shock at KeyArena this afternoon.
And with the stats down in KeyArena, it's even easier to suppress the impulse to read too much into this result.
"We had some good possessions and some not-so-good possessions," said Storm point guard Sue Bird, who dished out a game-high eight assists. "That's just us getting used to each other and getting familiar with the plays themselves."
But a telling sign of how the Storm approached this game is that head coach Agler sat Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson with the game on the line, according to Kevin Pelton of StormBasketball.com. What's most important is getting the team some game experience against a less familiar opponent, gaining a little more insight into who might be worthy of a roster spot as the time for final cuts approaches, and getting players into game shape.
"I think our conditioning's not quite there yet," Agler said about a performance in which a 20-point halftime lead dwindled to five. "When you get tired, you start making mental mistakes."
Rookie forward Ify Ibekwe apparently seized the opportunity to impress in the Storm's final tuneup before the regular season begins - although there was apparently some trouble tracking stats for the game, Ibekwe had a solid seven points, four rebounds, and two steals off the bench for the Storm.
STORM: Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Tulsa (Preseason)
...Ify Ibekwe came off the bench to score [seven]. Brian Agler mentioned before the game that Ibekwe can score in a variety of ways, and we saw just that during the first half. Ibekwe made a three and another long jumper, but also scored off the dribble.
With Agler already complimentary of Ibekwe prior to the game, this performance might help her earn a roster spot as a player to invest some development time in.
"I thought she played really well in the first half," Agler said of the 6-foot-2 rookie out of Arizona. "I think she's got a tremendous amount of potential. She hit some shots, defended, she went up and rebounded in a crowd a couple of times, which are all good things."
The other rookie of interest was 6-foot-8 Shock center Liz Cambage, who showed flashes of potential in her first WNBA contest. But she apparently struggled to put those flashes together into any sort of consistent production according to Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans, which is understandable when being defended by reigning WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson.
Women's Hoops Blog | Seattle Times Newspaper
SORRY MATE: Yeah, Australians Liz Cambage (Tulsa) and Jackson are friends, many calling the recent No. 2 draft pick the next Jackson. Cambage is doing well with good ball-handling skills for a 6-8 center. Still Jackson worked her on defense, smacking the ball away when Cambage brought waist-level on a post move. The steal was eventually converted into a Jackson three-pointer to put the Storm up 31-16 with 4:33 remaining in the half.
Playing against Jackson only compounded the understandable nervousness for the Australian rookie playing her first game in the U.S.
"(Elizabeth) Cambage was so nervous," second-year Shock coach Nolan Richardson said of his rookie center who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in her first WNBA start. "Matter of fact, I think she threw up. This was her first pro game in the United States and she was going against one of her fellow Australians in (Lauren) Jackson, the MVP ... you know, there were a lot of things. I thought she did settle down and became a force around the basket. They weren't getting anything easy anymore and she was able to control the boards when she was in that area."
The Shock are probably in a more difficult spot than the Storm in terms of figuring out their final roster after last summer's 6 win season, but other Shock rookies helped themselves as well.
"Kayla Pederson is one of my favorite kinds of players," Richardson said of his 6-foot-4 first round draft pick out of Stanford, who he has previously compared to Larry Bird. "She's everywhere. She's going to rebound, she'll hit some shots and she'll guard people so when you look at those three rookies, I was really pleased"
That rookies garnered so much attention in today's game is pleasing not only for the two teams involved, but also a sign of how much more competitive this year's training camps are around the league with a fairly strong draft class entering the league.