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Originally published Saturday, July 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Storm guard Betty Lennox and Janell Burse partners on court and off

Perhaps you've witnessed their uncanny rhythm. Storm guard Betty Lennox bypasses an outside shot, instead zipping the basketball inside...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Perhaps you've witnessed their uncanny rhythm.

Storm guard Betty Lennox bypasses an outside shot, instead zipping the basketball inside to center Janell Burse, who muscles in for a layup. Or Lennox penetrates to the hoop, then dumps the ball to an open Burse.

But you haven't heard their unique comedic routine.

If Lennox is on the sideline and Burse isn't playing the way she should, the streaming critique will follow. Take one recent game, when Burse made a smooth spin move but missed the shot.

"What happened to that shot?" Lennox griped to a passing Burse.

"I lost my rhythm," Burse answered.


Detroit @ Storm, 1 p.m., Ch. 4

"That's terrible, there's no excuse, you need to make that," Lennox harped.

"Well, it slipped," Burse said.

"Well, don't let it slip no more," Lennox said, getting the final word.

The yuks happen off the court, too. At a team barbecue on Thursday, Burse wore a fashionable outfit complete with stiletto boots. When the players went fishing, Lennox told Burse, "We don't need no fishing poles or nothing; you just stick your boot out the boat and spear the fish."

Burse ribs Lennox, too. The latter is selling raffle tickets to raise money for her charity, with the prize a private dinner with Lennox. But when the guard asked Burse to chip in, the center replied, "How about I buy one and I win and I go out by myself?"

The thick-skinned affection stems from years of supporting one another. The offseason after Lennox won the 2000 Rookie of the Year award with the Minnesota Lynx, the team drafted Burse with the 28th overall pick. When Lennox didn't think the coaching staff was developing Burse enough, she stepped in to fill the void.

Lennox tutored Burse on opposing players, defenses and a few offensive moves until she was traded to Miami in 2002. They kept in close contact and finally reunited in Seattle last season, Lennox via a dispersal draft and Burse via trade with Minnesota.

"She took me under her wing, helped me out a whole lot," Burse said. "How to get through training camp, work ethic and how you've got to come in shape. It was really fun in Minnesota. That's why I was excited to be teammates with her again."

Healthy after limping through last season with a hip injury, Burse has emerged as a leading candidate for the league's Most Improved Player award. She has replaced veteran Kamila Vodichkova in the starting lineup and is averaging a career-best 9.5 points and 5.9 rebounds — better than the 7.1 and 3.7 she averaged as a late-season starter for the playoff-bound Lynx in 2003.

The Storm's game today against Detroit at KeyArena is a rematch of one of Burse's best games this season. On June 8, she held Shock All-Star Ruth Riley to five points and three rebounds in 20 minutes while scoring a season-high 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a 76-61 Storm win in Detroit.

"She's exactly the same as last season," said forward Lauren Jackson. "She's just playing with a little more confidence. Teams go after me, and I used to make the shot. Now I'm not, but it's easier because I know J.B. is in there rebounding."

And while Jackson and guard Sue Bird are the Storm's highlight combo, Lennox and Burse are the stealth option.

"She's had an opportunity," Lennox said. "I mean, J.B. is 6-5. All she's got to do is tweak her game a little bit over the season, and her game has no choice but to go higher. And I really do get on her in practice to the point to where she's like, 'Shut up!'

"But she knows I'm not telling her anything that's going to hurt her so she really listens, and that's what you want in a best friend."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or

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