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Originally published Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Storm: Injured Lennox eager to play

It's probably the most annoying question since, "Are we there yet?" Betty Lennox, standing 5 feet 8 and looking up at Storm coach Anne...

Seattle Times staff reporter

It's probably the most annoying question since, "Are we there yet?"

Betty Lennox, standing 5 feet 8 and looking up at Storm coach Anne Donovan, who's 6-8, to ask, "Can I play now?" Never mind the clunky splint around her left wrist and the partial tear in the ligament that prevents the joint from even bending, keeping the shooting guard on the bench the past four games.

Lennox wants to play.

"[On Monday], we did some two-man passing and I jumped in and Anne said, 'Are you supposed to do this?' " Lennox said, mimicking the coy smile as she recalled responding to Donovan, " 'Just with my right.' I did maybe two or three and then I got out of the way.

"It's hard, I want to be a part of everything and you don't feel that closeness with your team because you can't participate anymore. In the meantime, they know I'm working hard to get back and they're working hard to try to maintain the position that we have."

Lennox, the team's second-leading scorer (12.5), will have another evaluation of the injury this morning. Aside from water therapy and tinkering on the court with her right wrist, which is still healing from tendinitis, Lennox cannot move her left wrist at all. The swelling has subsided since she injured it Aug. 4 and Donovan said it will not require surgery since it is a partial tear. The injury normally needs two to four months without activity to heal.

Lennox, who will miss tonight's home game against Minnesota, hopes to return for Saturday's game in Sacramento, yet it's more likely she won't return until the team's final two home games against Sacramento and Phoenix, Aug. 25 and 27, respectively. Especially if the Storm can hang on to its current second-place seeding in the Western Conference.

Tonight

Minnesota @ Seattle, KeyArena, 7 p.m., FSN/KJR (950 AM)

Donovan is more cautious because of the pending postseason, where Lennox averaged 22.3 points in last year's Finals to help the team win the championship and was named MVP.

The coach also likes the progress of rookie Tanisha Wright, who scored a career-high 13 points in a three-point loss to Houston on Sunday. Wright is defensive minded but can shoot the ball, although she's far from Lennox's showtime offense that has nailed four winning shots since she joined the Storm in 2004.

"Betty's not close yet; she just has to take her time," Donovan said. "In the early stages it was hard for Betty to see past how upset she was and disappointed she was. But she recognizes that this team needs positivity and she can help with that from the sideline. She's really taken her role to mentor Tanisha and is doing a great job."

Lennox was particularly down she couldn't participate in tonight's game because it could be Donovan's 100th career WNBA victory. Donovan is already the first woman to win a championship in the 13-team league dominated by male coaches with NBA experience. Once she collects her 100th win, she'll become the first woman in that category, fourth overall.

Donovan, who is in the final year of a three-year contract with the Storm, is 54-43 in Seattle, 99-93 overall after stints in Indiana and Charlotte.

But more important to her, Seattle is close to sealing a playoff berth. The Storm (16-13) has a half-game lead over Houston for second, which means home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The Comets fell behind by losing Tuesday, which would be good news if they hadn't lost to Minnesota, the Storm's opponent tonight.

"Minnesota has been on the brink for several games," said Donovan of the Lynx (14-16) being a game behind Phoenix for the fourth and final playoff slot. "So this just gives them more confidence."

The Storm is 1-2 against the Lynx this season, but if it can defeat Minnesota today, Seattle would need only one more win to clinch a berth. Currently the Storm's magic number to clinch a playoff berth is three and five to secure second place in the standings.

Note

Janell Burse injured her left knee midway through practice yesterday, and was diagnosed with an MCL irritation. She is questionable to start today. Donovan will look to veteran Simone Edwards or rookie Suzy Batkovic to replace her in the lineup.

"My knee got pushed back further than it should have," Burse said of the injury. "I don't like to baby stuff, so I'm guessing I will play."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

West playoff picture
Four teams from each conference make the WNBA playoffs. If the season ended today, the Storm would play Houston (season series is tied 2-2) in the first round. The Western Conference playoff chase:
# Team W-L Pct. GB
1. Sacramento* 21-8 .724
2. Seattle 16-13 .552 5
3. Houston 16-14 .533 5 ½
4. Phoenix 14-14 .500 6 ½
5. Minnesota 14-16 .467 7 ½
6. Los Angeles 13-16 .448 8
* Clinched playoff berth

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