Sports with Art Thiel
9:00 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Seattle hosts U.S.-China game, becoming hub for women's hoops

The success of the Seattle Storm has led to some pretty high-profile women's basketball events being held in the city. One of them is Saturday night at KeyArena.

The U.S. Women's National team will play the Chinese Women's National team in an exhibition game at 7:30 p.m. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says this is a big deal for fans of women's basketball and for the city.

Big game for many reasons

Art says Saturday night's game is part of a three-day mini-camp for both the U.S. and Chinese women's teams to prepare for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The U.S. women have won gold in the last four Olympics. Seattle Storm star Sue Bird and her former teammate Swin Cash are on the team. The women from China are the champions of Asia. Both teams will be in the same group in the London games.

"This is really a fun opportunity to see a couple of premier teams. It's an exhibition of course but it's nevertheless going to be a lot of fun for fans of international basketball."

Tickets are still available for Saturday night's exhibition game. Click here for details.

Seattle major player in women's hoops

Art says this weekend's exhibition game and mini-camp are being held in Seattle thanks to the Storm management.

"The ownership of the Storm has been a very assertive, proactive group in bringing basketball to Seattle. The first example was the Pac-12 women's tournament is now going to have a three-year run at KeyArena, starting next year, because the Storm reached out to the Pac-12."

Art says the Pac-12 women's tournament wasn't working at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the conference decided to give Seattle a chance to capitalize on the Storm's fan base.

"It's kind of a neat deal for women's hoops in general and Seattle fans in particular to have these kinds of events because without somebody being proactive like the Storm management they just wouldn't be showing up."

Speaking of the Olympics...

The Storm's 2012 season begins Friday night, May 18, at home against the Los Angeles Sparks. Sue Bird is going to play the complete season for the Storm in addition to playing on the U.S. Olympic team. But her teammate Lauren Jackson has asked to be away from the team for the first 19 games of the season so she can devote all her time to the Australian Women's National team.

Art says Jackson's goal is gold for her native country.

"Jackson is much more important to Australia's chances than Sue Bird would be, for example, for the American chances because there's a lot of talent in the U.S. team. Sue Bird is a cog whereas Jackson is the wheel for Australia."

Art says the Olympics are much more important for women's professional basketball than they are for men's professional basketball.  He says WNBA players don't make the millions of dollars a year that NBA players make so, for them, Olympic gold means a lot.

"That's how big a deal the Olympics are. Every four years, the WNBA takes a hiatus in the middle of the season (this year July 14-Aug. 15). So, the Storm just want to try to be respectable and competitive without Jackson and then, hopefully, when she returns in the middle of August, they're gonna make another run for the title."

New faces for the Storm

Art says the Storm begins its season next week in "survivor mode" without Lauren Jackson. But they'll have some help.

"They've added Tina Thompson, a 37-year-old original member of the WNBA, to help with bridging the gap. And their first-round draft choice Shekinna Striklen is from the University of Tennessee, the women's basketball powerhouse. And so coach Brian Agler is going to try to make ends meet until Jackson can return."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.