With their 76-75 win against the Los Angeles Sparks tonight, the Storm not only finished the regular season with a 17-0 record at home but also tied the WNBA record for most wins in a season with the 2000 and 2001 Sparks, of which forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was a member. On a broader scale, it’s the best home record of any team in Seattle history.
Camille Little had a career-high 22 points to go with 6 rebounds while Lauren Jackson had 21 points and 6 rebounds. Tina Thompson led the Sparks with 20 points and 6 rebounds.
However, questions about the 2010 Seattle Storm’s standing in WNBA history will have to wait despite their newly attained milestones. While on the one hand they know the records are worth pursuing, they also know that there are bigger goals to focus on.
"We haven't really thought about it and talked about it a whole lot," said Storm coach Brian Agler when asked about the records prior to the game. "Our goals have been getting better everyday getting prepared for the playoffs. But if I came up to you and said here's $500 if you can name our starters, would you walk away or would you name 'em? Yeah - it's sitting right here, it's sitting right in front of us. So since it's right here and it's our home court, it'd be nice to get. We're not going to die if it doesn't happen, but we're sitting right there."
What's keeping the 2010 Storm out of that conversation of great teams right now is that they lack a championship to go with all of this regular season dominance and fan appreciation. Neither Milton-Jones nor veteran Sparks forward Tina Thompson would say that the Storm’s regular season success puts them in the conversation as one of the league’s "great" teams. There’s a different standard entirely for that.
“We didn’t become a great team until we won,” said Thompson, who played for the Houston Comets teams that won the first four WNBA championships in league history. “Like the first year we won we weren’t a great team. Even the second time we won we weren’t a great team. We weren’t considered a great team until we won the three and four. So as much as the regular season tells a story, it doesn’t mean anything until you complete it throughout the playoffs.”
Although they lack the banner to make it official, Milton-Jones said that the 2010 Storm do exude the same sort of championship swagger that other great WNBA teams have shown.
“I think that they are right up there with those teams,” said Milton-Jones. “When I watch them on video or I’m playing against them on the court in real life. The feeling that they emit is like the feeling that the old Sparks teams — those championship teams — that we had or those Houston Comets teams or the Detroit Shock. The feeling that you have when you’re playing against those teams or when you’re on those teams, they have that right now. They are playing like a championship caliber team.”
Milton-Jones elaborated that part of the reason the Storm are performing so well this season is that they have outstanding leadership, players who have bought into their system, and players that know how to support their primary star players. However, the Storm also have multiple veterans with championship experience and, consistent with the comments from Milton-Jones and Thompson, they are doing their best to keep things in perspective:
With the playoffs ahead they are ready to top off an outstanding regular season with further success in the playoffs.
"When you're in the middle of it you kind of just don't really appreciate it as much," said Storm forward Swin Cash, who played for the Detroit Shock teams that Milton-Jones mentioned. "We talk about in here the same thing I talked about when I was in Detroit: anyone can get lucky and win one, but when you win multiple ones that's when you start putting your names in a different category. You have to finish it. You have to bring it home. I mean, everyone's been looking at us the whole season and it's up to us to bring it home in the playoffs...Everyone just has to stay ready so when your number's called you don't have to get ready."
At some point after the playoffs -- or as Agler and players have suggested, perhaps 10 years down the road -- they'll have time to fully appreciate the season they've put together similar to how the fans have done. For now, the focus remains clear.
"It doesn't implicate the playoffs, but it's something you can talk about the rest of your life," said Agler.