SEATTLE - When three-time U.S. Olympian Katie Smith steps onto the court for the Seattle Storm in their WNBA season opener Saturday it'll be for less money than she could have gotten elsewhere. It could be in a reserve role after starting 412 of the 417 total games she has played in the league.
But her attitude about all that can be summed up with: "So what?"
"I'm going to play, whether you start or whether you don't, I know I'm going to (play)," said Smith, whose new team opens the 2011 season against Phoenix on her 37th birthday. "I've been with many players who have come off the bench and played more minutes than the starters. It's just not about that. It's about coming out there and being as efficient as I possibly can."
Opponents who already have to figure out how to contain a starting five that includes three Olympians (Lauren Jackson of Australia, Sue Bird and Swin Cash of the United States), now will have to decide how to deal with someone who can bring an Olympic-caliber boost off the bench. Smith has earned three golds of her own playing for the U.S. in 2000, '04 and '08.
"We have so many weapons that are out there, she can come in and do her thing," Cash said, "and if you forget her, she's going to burn you for 20 (points). I think that's what makes people scared about this team is having her here."
Seattle is coming off its second WNBA crown, and the Storm dominated the league last summer: 28-6 during the regular season, 7-0 in the playoffs, and 21-0 at home (17-0 regular season, 4-0 playoffs).
Smith brings her own championship credentials to town. She helped the Detroit (now Tulsa) Shock win it all in 2006 and 2008, earning Finals MVP honors in '08. The 1996 Ohio State grad is beginning her 16th pro season, her 13th in the WNBA, and was on back-to-back Columbus Quest teams that won the only two American Basketball League titles (1997 and '98) before that league folded.
"I went to Detroit (in mid-2005) with a team that was already established, and won a championship," Smith said. "I have a strong personality, but I fit in. You come in and do your job, and you bring what you can to the table. I have to figure out how to play with Sue and Lauren and Swin and just get into that system, because they obviously have something they've already established."
Smith, with a career average of 15.2 points -- 9.5 points in 2010 -- anticipates no problems with that.
"It's basketball," she said. "It's playing hard and playing together."
In Smith's case, it's also playing for Storm coach Brian Agler again and assistant Nancy Darsch. Agler was head coach at Columbus during the two ABL title runs, and he also was the first coach of the Minnesota Lynx, to whom Smith was allocated by the league when the Lynx joined as an expansion team in 1999. Darsch was Smith's coach at Ohio State.
Agler said Smith has changed during the past decade and a half, but only in a good way.
"I don't think she's any less competitive (than before)," Agler said. "She's probably a better player from a standpoint of just understanding the game and how she can play multiple roles. She can be a go-to person, or she can be a complementary player."
Smith said she'd like to finish her career in Seattle, but was noncommittal on when that might be.
"It's year to year," said Smith, who did not play in either of the Storm's two preseason games because of tendinitis in her left Achilles'. "You don't know how you're going to feel after another four months of running and banging and all that. If I can do it again, if I feel like I can be productive and it's all right by my body, then sure (I'll keep playing).
"At this point, you're not greedy," she said. "You just try to enjoy what you have (because) it could be done just like that."