Tonight in Seattle, the WNBA’s Storm host the Phoenix Mercury in a deciding game: Win and move on to the NBA Finals, lose and go home. (The Washington Mystics and Atlanta Dream are having their own Game 5 Tuesday night as well, with the same stakes).
Isaiah Thomas will be watching.The Denver Nuggets’ point guard praised the league and the Storm (from his hometown of Seattle) in a piece for the Players’ Tribune.
Washington basketball, this culture…. in Seattle, man, we ride for the Storm. The city has been filling KeyArena for years, before and after the Sonics left, so nobody has to worry about whether the city’s gonna come out for our games. We ready. We want another ’ship. The Storm’s gonna be on in our house, and if we make the Finals I’m gonna try to go to at least one game.
But I gotta say, as exciting as it is to have the Storm making playoff noise — I’m worried that everyone’s not on the same page. For a while now, I’ve been hearing something that bothers me. It’s when people say things like, “There’s no basketball in Seattle anymore.” Or, like, “We need pro basketball back in Seattle.”
They’re talking about how the Sonics are gone. I get that.
But I can’t help but hear something else, too: They’re forgetting about the Storm.
Seattle…. it still has pro hoops. The Storm has been here for more than two decades. They’re a damn good, consistently-winning, title-taking, pro hoops team. If you don’t see it, that’s on you. You’re just not looking.
The WNBA playoffs have been thrilling — star players stepping up in big moments, drama, even matchups. More importantly, it’s just good basketball. The women in this league can flat out ball. They play a smart game. If you’re a basketball purist, this is beautiful stuff.
Thomas also wades into the biggest issue around the WNBA right now, salaries. The average WNBA salary for this season is expected to be about $75,000, with a max of $133,500 (well below the NBA’s rookie minimum). A lot of WNBA players take off overseas when the season ends to play in Europe, China or Russia because they make far more money there — more than double or triple their WNBA paycheck. (Remember, Diana Taurasi sat out the 2015 WNBA season because her Russian club paid her more and asked her to.) It’s an issue the league needs to address (attendance and financial issues around the league make that easier said than done, but the topic needs more light).
Do yourself a favor tonight, watch the two Game 5s. This is going to be good basketball.