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The Coors Light Debate Poll

During the most recent Fabulous Peltoncast, Tristan and I debated the merits of Coors Light. After hearing our positions, it’s time to get yours: Who won the debate?

What’s Next for the Storm?

The Seattle Storm announced today that star post Lauren Jackson will sit out the 2013 season to rehabilitate after undergoing hamstring surgery last month in her native Australia.

We’ve been here before — all too frequently, in fact, and it’s tough to see Jackson deal with another intensive rehabilitation process. The upside of that is the Storm has plenty of experience playing without Jackson. She was limited to just 21 of the 68 games the team played the last two seasons because of injuries and training for the 2012 Olympics.

A consistent pattern has emerged under Brian Agler. Whether Jackson plays or not, the Storm has one of the league’s top defenses. When the three-time MVP is in the lineup, an above-average offense helps the Storm win about three-quarters of its games (even more in 2010, when Jackson played 32 games during a 28-6 season that culminated in a championship). Without Jackson, the Storm ranks near the bottom of the league in Offensive Rating. An elite defense and a weak offense translates into a record near .500.

As with last year, the Storm has the advantage of being able to plan for Jackson’s absence ahead of time. In fact, the situation is slightly better because Jackson’s salary won’t count against the cap because she is on the suspended list. That will allow the Storm to fill her roster spot with another highly paid veteran.

Who might be available?

Unfortunately, looking at the WNBA’s list of unrestricted free agents, quality posts are conspicuously lacking. The best of the group is probably New York’s Kara Braxton, who is limited in terms of her conditioning and has worn out her welcome quickly in other spots. (Besides, Bill Laimbeer may be looking forward to a Braxton reunion with the Liberty.)

After that, you’re looking at a number of veterans who are in various stages of decline. Taj McWilliams-Franklin can still start and would anchor the Storm’s defense, but it’s tough to see her leaving Minnesota if she returns at age 42.

I could see the Storm considering long-time Jackson nemesis DeLisha Milton-Jones, and it’s possible Ashley Robinson could return given that a tight salary-cap squeeze was one reason she was traded to Washington last offseason. But the Storm isn’t going to find a full-time center in free agency, which is why Ann Wauters‘ decision not to return — while hardly a surprise — will hurt the team. The Storm won’t be able to sign a post as good as Wauters.

So maybe the Storm will put the money to use elsewhere. There are a handful of quality veteran guards available, including Tulsa’s Temeka Johnson and San Antonio’s Jia Perkins. I could see the Storm spending its newfound cap space on the perimeter to offer more reinforcement to starting guards Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright, taking some of the pressure off two players who dealt with injuries last season.

That might make sense because the Storm has more low-cost options in the frontcourt. Forward Alysha Clark and center Ewelina Kobryn, who are reserved players and can negotiate only with the Storm, will probably be in camp on their minimum-salary qualifying offers. While Agler told Jayda Evans that guard Silvia Dominguez and forward Jana Vesela aren’t options because they will represent their countries in this summer’s EuroBasket competition, this is a quiet summer for the Australian National Team. That means Abby Bishop, who has been out of the WNBA since playing for the Storm as a rookie in 2010 at age 21, could be an option as well.

Today’s announcement gives the Storm clarity about what lies ahead. Jackson isn’t replaceable, but now it’s up to Agler to put the cap space her absence provides to good use.

Blog note: The Storm appearing in this space is probably a one-time thing as I figure out a new home for my Storm commentary.

NCAA Timeouts and the Definition of the #Howland

You don’t have to watch UCLA basketball very long to know that Bruins head coach Ben Howland uses his timeouts differently than most other coaches. Howland rarely chooses to save his timeouts for the end of games and often calls them after his team has scored, even when UCLA ostensibly has control of momentum.

There’s one thing in particular that Howland does that drives me, as a disciple of the Dean Smith school of saving timeouts, nuts. When he does use his timeouts to stop other teams’ runs, he habitually calls them in situations where the next dead ball would be a mandatory timeout. This is my definition of a #Howland, and the man himself is hardly the only coach guilty of calling them on a regular basis.

As an aside, a quick primer on NCAA timeouts. Each team gets five timeouts to spend at its discretion. One of these must be called before halftime or it is lost. In addition, there are so-called “media” or “TV” timeouts — beat writers are clamoring for a stoppage! — that take place at the first dead ball after the 16-, 12-, 8- and 4-minute marks of each half. (Note that if the clock stops at precisely the minute mark, like 4:00, that is not a mandatory timeout. Hence, it’s the “under-4” timeout or so on.)

Now, the NBA has media timeouts too, but the current rules dictate that a timeout called ahead of the mark replaces the mandatory NBA timeout. This means the NBA avoids that scourge of college fandom — a stretch with a timeout called from the bench, one play, a stoppage and immediately the mandatory timeout. It also makes the #Howland impossible.

To maintain a strict definition of the #Howland, I only count timeouts called to stop runs. (Other interpretations may be more liberal.) Basically, calling a timeout in this scenario is something of a waste because the next dead ball will stop the momentum just the same without costing the team a precious timeout. In fact, I’d advocate in situations like this that the team ought to gamble for a foul or try to kick the ball, which would force a timeout at no cost to the team.

There are those who argue in defense of the #Howland, noting that the double-timeout is sure to quiet even the loudest of road crowds. So one a game might be acceptable, especially in the first half when the timeout won’t carry over anyway, but Howland himself has a habit of calling multiple and running out of stoppages with plenty of game time remaining. Of course, even when Howland does save a timeout, he doesn’t always use it. When it comes to timeouts, Howland just can’t win.