By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The Seattle Storm resume the WNBA season tonight at KeyArena against the Phoenix Mercury after a month-long break for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
And for the Storm, the second half of the season begins much the way the first ended — without Lauren Jackson.
Jackson missed the first 19 games of the season training for the Olympics with the Australian national team and will miss the Storm’s two games this week. Jackson and the Australians beat Russia 83-74 to earn the bronze medal in London.
She is expected to rejoin the Storm early next week and may play on Tuesday against Minnesota. When the season began, the Storm expected to have Jackson back immediately after the Olympics, but plans changed earlier this week when Jackson was asked to return to Australia to celebrate the team’s performance.
“We didn’t know that she was going to be asked to go back and fulfill her Olympic obligations one more week,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said.
It may take Jackson some time to gain chemistry with some of her newer teammates, but Agler left no doubt that she will be thrown right into the mix.
“It may take her a while to get acclimated, but she’s in good shape,” Agler said. “In regards to starting or not starting, she’ll start.”
Jackson wasn’t the only Storm player competing in London, point guard Sue Bird was a captain on the United States team that earned the gold medal with a win over France. It was the fifth-straight gold medal for the U.S. and the third consecutive gold for Bird. The all-star guard returned to Seattle Monday evening and went through a limited practice with the team on Tuesday.
Seattle resumed regular practice on Aug. 1 and Bird said there is some catching up to do.
“They have already put in new offenses, things that I’m going to have to learn,” Bird said. “And I know they have improved because I know Brian and I know the coaching staff and I know that there is really no other option when you are in a training camp setting with coaches like that.”
The Storm finished the first half of the season at 9-10, six games behind the Western Conference-leading Lynx. After suffering a 1-7 start, the worst in franchise history, the Storm won eight of 11 before the break to get back in the race in the West, as usual, hanging their hat on defense.
Agler said other things need to improve in the second half if the Storm are going to make a run at one of the top two seeds in the West.
“We felt like we played pretty well defensively in the first half of the season, but that’s sort of a staple for us because we focus on that,” Agler said. “We just (need) to try and play a little bit more in transition and work on our offensive execution.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.