With 4-pack of All-Stars, Storm are rolling and making case as contenders

Jun 14, 2024, 9:55 AM | Updated: 11:53 am

Seattle Storm Jewell Loyd Nneka Ogwumike...

Jewell Loyd and Nneka Ogwumike of the Seattle Storm react during a June 11, 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (AP) — Throughout their history, when the Seattle Storm have won WNBA titles, it’s been more than just two players that carried them to the top.

It could be argued that this year’s version of the Storm has four players that individually would be superstars on other teams.

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Jewell Loyd and Ezi Magbegor were already All-Stars with Seattle, but the additions of veterans Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike changed the expectations for this Storm team.

After finishing with the second-worst record in the league a season ago, the Storm are showing signs of being a team capable of consideration as a contender. Seattle improved to 9-4 after Thursday’s win over Dallas, has won eight of its last nine and went 4-1 in the Commissioner’s Cup games of the past couple of weeks.

WNBA Standings

And that strong start came with Ogwumike missing a few games with injuries and Diggins-Smith taking a little time to find her game after missing last season following the birth of her second child.

The talent is there. And while the start wasn’t perfectly smooth, the Storm are hitting the point where coach Noelle Quinn thinks a fair examination can be made about the direction of the squad.

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“I think our mindset is just continue to find ways to improve and grow in the game, finding cadence with each other, and rhythm and chemistry in the games — in the time that we cannot practice,” Quinn said. “I’d say 10 (games) but maybe a little more than that because they’re new to the system, playing with each other, but not just those two, other players as well.”

The depth of talent Seattle has pulled together was on display recently in a home win over Phoenix. Ogwumike, an eight-time All-Star in Los Angeles, was unavailable and Loyd — who led the WNBA in scoring last season — was serving as more of a distributor than a scorer.

But Magbegor dominated the interior, Diggins-Smith seemed closer to finding the form that made her a six-time All-Star previously, and Seattle won by 18 despite not playing particularly well in the second half.

A few days later, Ogwumike was back in the lineup and scored 26 points in a win over Los Angeles, highlighting again Seattle’s depth.

“She makes it look easy and effortless, but it’s all the preparation that goes into it,” Loyd said of Ogwumike. “She puts a lot of work into her body and her game. To see her go out there on this floor is awesome.”

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Seattle has won four WNBA titles in its previous 24 seasons and in each one of those championship seasons there was a stellar supporting cast around the focal points. Sue Bird was part of all those title teams. For the first two she had Lauren Jackson as her prime running mate; the last two Breanna Stewart.

But around those pairings were stars that may have been underappreciated at the time, yet extremely important to Seattle’s success. In 2004, it was Betty Lennox. In 2010, it was Swin Cash. And in 2018 and 2020 it was the combo of Loyd in the early stages of her career and Natasha Howard.

What Seattle has this season should be able to contend with the likes of Las Vegas, Minnesota, New York or Connecticut and they’re far closer than they were a season ago when Seattle went 11-29.

And the future is promising, too. Loyd, Magbegor and Diggins-Smith are all signed through next season. Magbegor signed her extension only recently.

“Just the professionalism of this team I think has really leveled up and that’s something I want to be a part of,” Magbegor said. “Jewell committed two years. Sky committed. The team is committed so I’m committed as well.”

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With 4-pack of All-Stars, Storm are rolling and making case as contenders