It’s been a long time since all-star Sue Bird has been on the court for the Storm, and some things have certainly changed in Seattle.
Bird missed the 2013 WNBA season due to a surgical procedure to fill a cyst-like pocket in her left knee and the lingering effects of hip surgery from September 2012.
After spending most of the summer of 2013 rehabbing, she returned to Storm practices in August and then game-action in October in Russia, where she led UMMC Ekaterinburg to two different championships.
“A lot of changes have happened,” Bird said. “In terms of all of that, coming into training camp, I feel normal.”
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It’s the Storm roster that doesn’t look “normal.”
Bird returned from overseas along with backcourt cohort Tanisha Wright and forward Camille Little for their first Storm practice of the season Monday.
While Seattle’s core looked similar with perimeter players Noelle Quinn, Shekinna Stricklen and Alysha Clark, the post rotation is a stark change for Bird. The Storm is without its normal towering centers, who were all at least 6-foot-4.
Posts Lauren Jackson (knee) and Ashley Robinson (Achilles) are out due to injuries. That leaves two rookies — one a second-round draft choice in Michelle Plouffe (6-4) — as the only contenders coach Brian Agler has if he wants to add height to his roster.
“As far back as I can go, we’ve always been a big team, three or four people over 6-3,” said Bird. “We’re not as big. OK, everybody knows it. What are you going to do? Nothing. We’re going to have to figure who we’re going to be and as soon as we figure that out, the quicker we can work on it and perfect it and become a really good team. I don’t see why that can’t happen.”
Practice had that urgency Monday. Seattle plays its only exhibition game Sunday against Los Angeles and plays host to the Sparks on May 16 in the season opener.
It’s eight practice days, subtracting off-days. Yet the team is still missing one key piece in guard Temeka Johnson, who finished play in Russia last week but was permitted to report to camp later this week.
“A lot of teams are going through that,” Wright said of numerous veterans reporting late because the league is starting sooner to accommodate the FIBA World Championships in Turkey this fall.
The advantage the Storm does have is it returns six of the main eight players it used in 2013. And the additions are all-star forward Crystal Langhorne, Australian Olympian Jenna O’Hea and Bird.
“Having Birdy back gives it a whole different feel, finally” said Little, who’s entering her sixth season in Seattle.