When asked prior to Tuesday night's win against the Washington Mystics whether he was at all excited about being 3-0, Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler put WNBA life in perspective.
"You don't have time to feel sorry for yourself or get too up about yourself," said Agler after Monday's practice.
So it should come as no surprise that Agler was no more effusive after the Mystics win and a franchise-best 4-0 start.
"I'm glad we've won four games," said Agler, when asked about his thoughts on the 4-0 start on Tuesday night. "Look forward to number five as soon as it comes. Hopefully sooner than later."
With the combination of contraction, a salary cap reduction, and general development in the women's game, Agler has maintained that it's simply nice to get a win in a competitive league.
"Anytime you can get a win in this league it's a positive," said Storm coach Brian Agler. "The way I look at it -- being in it so long -- is you get a win, you enjoy it for about six hours, and then you get ready for the next one. That's just sort of the routine, nothing more nothing less. There's a quality to have success in this league -- just keep your focus on one game at a time. You start looking ahead too far -- anything can happen."
Yet somehow, Agler's anytime you can get a win in this league it's a positive philosophy seems to ring far more true for the 0-4 Chicago Sky than the undefeated Storm. To the extent that Agler's players have bought in to his philosophy -- and all indications are that they see the 4-0 the same way he does -- there isn't much reason to believe that the Storm will experience a lapse in their game against the Sky either due to overconfidence.
"Well we talked about that -- there's not a lot of difference between these teams," said Agler when asked about preparing for the Sky after the win against the Mystics. "Of those four games [the Sky have played], I think three of them have been on the road. So it's hard -- it's hard to win on the road. Just because they're 0-4 doesn't mean they're a bad team -- they may have just got off to a slow start. I know who's on that team and I know they beat us twice last year so they're pretty solid."
Although Agler referred to the Sky beating the Storm twice last season, this is a very different Sky team in 2010, particularly with the additions of wing scorer Shameka Christon, forward Cathrine Kraayeveld, and rookie guard Epipphanny Prince. Considering the Sky led the league in three point shooting last season with a percentage of 39.5% and shot a combined 18-25 (72%) from the three point line against the Storm last season it would appear that the perimeter game could tilt the scales in this one.
Perhaps the Mystics' approach provides some insight for how the Sky can loosen up the Storm defense.
The players who hurt the Storm the most were forward Monique Currie who ended with a game-high 25 points on 9-14 shooting and Lindsey Harding who had 15 points. While one could certainly argue that Harding made some ill-advised drives to the basket, she hurt the Storm on a few occasions with her ability to drive and a) draw fouls, b) score, or c) find open teammates.
"We did a better of job with that in the 3rd and 4th quarter," said Agler. "But late in the game, when they did a great job spreading we didn't want to help to her and have her kick for three. So we basically had to leave Sue on an island there and let her play one on one."
Although the way the Mystics aggressively attacked the rim was effective at time, they also only had 3 assists in the second half. However, for a team like the Sky that has multiple shooters around the perimeter (although they have not shot well yet this season), the drive and kick strategy could be effective against the Storm -- through 4 games, for whatever that's worth, Storm opponents have shot 40.7% from the 3 point line against the Storm.
More importantly -- for both the Sky and the Storm -- will be the role of Sylvia Fowles. While she is the team's leading scorer, there are times when it appears that the Sky are focusing more on using her as a decoy before trying to establish her presence in the post (hard for a player to be a decoy before establishing themselves as a consistent threat). However, with Fowles being by far the Sky's most efficient scorer at one of the team's higher usage rates, she could probably stand to see the ball more often than she does.
Yet as Agler alluded to, in a tightly contested league anything can happen on any given day. So if the Sky get hot at home or the Storm have another slow start that digs them a hole, the outcome of this game could surprise some people. And sometimes, as Sky coach Steven Key relayed to me in the off-season, a little luck can go a long way.
"In order to win the championship - everyone that's won one will tell you -- you have to get a little lucky, whether it's a ball bouncing the right way or getting a call or somebody making a terrific shot or even remaining healthy," said Key in an off-season phone interview with Swish Appeal. "And that's what I think needs to happen for us."
Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.