After 17 days of Olympics, flying across time zones multiple times from different continents, and winning both Olympic Gold and the Commissioner’s Cup, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart might need some rest.
So it wasn’t too surprising when Seattle Storm coach Noelle Quinn announced Saturday that the Olympic duo will sit out the team’s game at the Chicago Sky on Sunday.
Fellow Olympian Jewell Loyd is expected to play though in the first of a five-game trip as the Storm embarks on the restart of the WNBA season.
“Sue and Stewie will be resting,” she said. “So we are preparing in that manner, and that’s what today was — preparation to play without them but understanding that we are deep and using our depth to supplement in positions that can help. Hopefully, the focus and attention to detail is on point tomorrow.”
Stewart, who was named women’s basketball MVP at the Tokyo Olympics by FIBA, led Team USA by playing 191 minutes, averaging 31.8 minutes per game.
Bird, even though she was less than three months away from her 41st birthday and playing in her fifth Olympics, was second in minutes on Team USA, logging 150 minutes for an average of 25 minutes per game. Loyd played 111 minutes to average 18.5 per game.
Despite the extra work, fatigue didn’t appear to be a problem for either in the Commissioner Cup Final. Stewart dropped a game-high 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and added four rebounds, three assists, four steals, and three steals to finish the night plus-27 and Cup Final MVP, all in just 26 minutes of action. Bird added 10 points and five assists in 18 minutes.
Without two members of its Big Three, the Storm will try to find answers in other places. While Quinn said this was an opportunity for some players to step up, she believes teamwork will help them more than any particular individual play.
“I don’t want to pinpoint anyone because it honestly is going to be a team effort, a concerted team effort,” she said. “Everyone has to step up in a way, not replacing those players but complementing one another and understanding that the better we are together, the stronger we are as a team, the better our chances are.”
The Storm are getting a few player back for this crucial stretch. Stephanie Talbot, the WNBA leader in three-point percentage, and Ezi Magbegor, Australia’s second-leading scorer in Tokyo, both left the team early to report for international duty with Australia ahead of the Olympics, meaning Seattle’s Commissioner Cup win was the first time they’ve had the whole roster together since July 9.
“They’ve done a great job of just fitting us back into the team,” Magbegor said. “We were just excited to be back with everyone. It’s so nice to see everyone’s faces at practice every day and just be on the same team again, so I think it’s been pretty easy to fit back into the team.”
Magbegor and Talbot both contributed in the Commissioner Cup final, with the former adding six points and three rebounds and the latter scoring five in just 11 minutes. Both players will also be asked to step up in the absence of Stewart and Bird, something they’re confident they can handle.
“Stewie and Sue deserve this break, so I think we should just have to come out and play for them in a way,” Magbegor said. “But I think, obviously, there will be a bigger role for the bench players who don’t normally play as much, so I think we just have to do our thing and play our game and hopefully the rest will come.”