Storm star Sue Bird participated in a light practice Friday after missing the game Thursday due to a neck strain.
Bird suffered the same injury in 2009 and missed the final three games of that regular season. She returned in time to start in the first-round playoff series defeat against Los Angeles.
“That one was severe,” said Bird, a 13-year WNBA veteran. “This one, I have motion, it’s just that when I go certain ways, it really tightens up. That one, I couldn’t move at all.”
In 2009, Bird had an MRI exam on her neck to try and find the reason for the sudden pain. She was told she likely had a bulging disk that was dormant until it flared.
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Thursday, Bird woke in a similar pain and tested the neck during pregame warm-ups but couldn’t loosen the neck. She was a game-time scratch with Temeka Johnson starting in her place.
Johnson, a 10-year veteran, recorded the Storm’s first triple-double, finishing with 13 points, a season-high 11 assists and career-high 10 rebounds in an overtime loss against New York.
Bird’s treatment this time is a combination of deep-tissue massages, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory pills. Storm coach Brian Agler said if Bird is able, she will start the 1 p.m. game Saturday against Los Angeles at KeyArena.
The Sparks are 3-0 against the Storm this season, winning the last meeting in Seattle 70-56 on July 3. All-Star Nneka Ogwumike led Los Angeles with 21 points. Candace Parker finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and four steals.
Seattle (9-17) is in a must-win situation Saturday against Los Angeles. Despite being on a seasonlong four-game losing streak, the Storm is only two games behind the Sparks for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles (10-14) is riding a three-game losing streak. The organization fired coach Carol Ross on Sunday and assistant coach Gail Goestenkors resigned. General manager Penny Toler is leading the team, making her coaching debut on any level in a 66-64 home defeat against New York on Wednesday.
“They’ve gone through some transitions,” Agler said. “I’m not here to judge any of that other than to say they’re a quality team with a lot of good players and it’s been a tough matchup for us. (Saturday) is a pretty important game.”
The gravity of the game wasn’t lost on Bird on Friday and it was a key reason why she attempted to practice. Starters participated in light drills and reserves stayed longer to scrimmage against the male practice squad.
Seattle has eight games remaining, six at KeyArena, in its attempt to make a WNBA-record 11th consecutive playoff appearance. Another defeat would seal Agler’s second losing season since being hired in 2008.
“I hope by (Saturday) I wake up and it’s gone,” Bird said of the neck injury. “For whatever reason, my muscles got pissed off. I’ve dealt with it before, so I’ve just got to get through it.”