The two-time WNBA champion Seattle Storm starts the 2018 season, and their bid for another championship year, at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 20 against the Phoenix Mercury.
It’s a day they’ve worked all training camp to get to and a day to celebrate Storm legend guard Sue Bird.
Seattle will be giving away Sue Bird bobbleheads to the first 3,000 fans to honor her for becoming the WNBA All-Time assist leader last year after passing Ticha Penicheiro’s (2,599) on September 1, 2017 at the Washington Mystics. She currently stands with 2,610 assists.
Bird, 37, is heading into her 17th season, all with the Storm, but being the oldest active player in the league she shows no signs of slowing down her production.
Last year Bird set a career-high average of 6.6 assists per game, tying for second in the WNBA and participated in her 10th All-Star game which was held in Seattle and tied her with Tamika Catchings for most appearances. Bird was named a starter for the eighth time and recorded and All-Star record 11 assists.
Bird’s continued play at top levels brought up the question of how she keeps going year after year.
“How is the same thing I’ve been doing the last couple of years which is just take care of my body and go from there,” said Bird. “…I train the best I can, I eat the best I can, do whatever it is I need to do to make sure I’m ready when training camp comes and then usually this (training camp) is the easy part.”
Sunday’s game will be the third time in the past three weeks that the Storm and Mercury face off. Seattle defeated Phoenix in both pre-season games 73-69 in Seattle and 84-61 at Phoenix.
The games saw the Storms two draft picks, UCLA guard Jordin Canada the fifth pick and West Virginia forward Teana Muldrow the 29th pick working hard to make their place on the roster.
Canada shot 15 and 17 points respectively in the games including five steals in game one. Both showed calm under pressure as they hit big shots in game one and kept the pressure on to help the Storm to the preseason wins. It’s the first time Seattle has had an undefeated preseason since 2013.
Their work was impressive and the rookies have made the final roster of 12 to start the regular season campaign.
Besides Bird, Canada and Muldrow also on the 2018 roster are returnees and previous number one picks guard Jewell Loyd and forward Breanna Stewart.
The Storm re-signed Loyd and forwards Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis, Alysha Clark, Noelle Quinn, and guard Sami Whitcomb to multi-year contracts and obtained forward Natasha Howard in a trade with the Minnesota Lynx. Rounding out the roster are centers Crystal Langhorne and Courtney Paris who was a free-agent signing.
With eight returning players including five players who were starters for most of last year the Storm will look to go beyond building. They got a great start when their three stars, Bird, Loyd and Stewart were able to begin working out together about three months before the start of training camp, a luxury they haven’t had in previous years.
“We were able to get a lot of workouts together and then go over things,” said Stewart. “We don’t necessarily have time to do (that) now once the season starts because it’s the entire team and anytime you’re working out with two of your teammates especially those two it’s going to help all of us.”
“I still have major concerns rebounding wise,” said new head coach Dan Hughes. “I think Courtney will help some with that. But I think we’ve got to continue to look at how we can put our players in the best situations to help them rebound coming out of it.”
Rebounding was not a bright spot in the first game for the Storm as they ended up with 28 to 40 by Phoenix but in game two Seattle brought their rebound game up as they pulled down 31 to the Mercury’s 34.
Seattle showed that quick is another term that can be used when talking about the Storm. They scored 11 fast break points in the first game to 2 for Phoenix and in the second game they speed down the court with eight fast break points to zero for the Mercury.
Another nice take-away was Seattle’s fourth quarter spurt in game two. Going into the third with a three point lead the Storm started the quarter with a 13-2 spurt that gave them a 14 point lead and outscored Phoenix 32-12 in the fourth to finish with a 23 point win.
Opening day for Seattle is also #WNBAALLDAY as all 12 teams will be playing with four games streamed on Twitter starting at 1pm when the Las Vegas Aces, with 2018 number one pick Aja Wilson, play at the Connecticut Sun and ends with the Seattle game which will also be shown on JOEtv.
Seattle starts the regular season at home against Phoenix at 6pm at the KeyArena in Seattle.