The Storm temporarily severed ties with Breanna Stewart and placed its injured star on the suspended list before finalizing its 2019 roster Thursday afternoon.
Soon after, the WNBA hired the reigning MVP as an ambassador in a move that’s unprecedented in recent history.
Stewart is believed to be the first active player to serve in such a role and the four-year veteran will be compensated by the league in excess of her base salary, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
The fourth-year veteran was expected to make $64,538 from the Storm, according to a database of WNBA salaries compiled by High Post Hoops.
WNBA teams, which must carry a minimum of 11 players and a maximum of 12, can not replace an injured players without releasing someone. The league abolished the injured list in 2005 and got rid of the two-person inactive list in 2008.
When Stewart underwent season-ending surgery on April 18 to repair a torn Achilles, it created a dilemma for the Storm.
Further complicating matters is the loss of guard Sue Bird will have surgery to repair her left knee and is out indefinitely.
Placing Stewart on the suspended list removed her salary from Seattle’s payroll and created an extra spot on the roster for Anriel Howard, a promising rookie forward who was selected 24th in the second round by Seattle in last month’s WNBA draft.
“We like her a lot because she’s a powerful player who can do a lot of things,” interim coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “It’s just a matter of her getting used to our game because I think she played a little out of position in college.
“She’s more of a 2/3 (shooting guard/small forward) and I think she was in the post before. So for her, it’s getting used to defending more on the perimeter and shooting the 3.”
After signing free agent guard Shavonte Zellous in the offseason, the Storm wasn’t expecting to add anyone else to a veteran squad that brings back 11 players from last year’s team that won the WNBA championship.
Seattle selected 19-year-old Australian forward Ezi Magbegor in the first round of the WNBA draft and elected to have her spend the year overseas because of its crowded roster.
Once the Storm lost its two All-Stars, the team needed some help on the bench and Howard, who averaged 16.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals last season at Mississippi State, displayed early promise in training camp.
The 5-foot-11 and 176 pound forward averaged 3.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 20.5 minutes during two preseason games.
Howard’s spot on the team became apparent Wednesday when the Storm released training-camp invitee Teana Muldrow, a 6-1 forward who played in four games in the WNBA last season including three with Seattle.
On Wednesday, the Storm also included Macy Miller, Presley Hudson and Recee Caldwell in its final cuts.
Otherwise there were few surprises among the Storm’s final roster that includes Jewell Loyd, Jordin Canada, Shavonte Zellous, Sami Whitcomb and Bird in the backcourt.
Natasha Howard, Crystal Langhorne, Alysha Clark, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Courtney Paris, Mercedes Russell and Howard round out the frontcourt.
CLARK TOPS WHITCOMB FOR TITLE
Clark tallied 15 points and eight rebounds to lead Lyon Asvel to a 75-61 victory in a decisive Game 5 for the French league championship on Tuesday against a Lattes Montpellier team led by Storm teammate Whitcomb.
Clark played a starring role this season while averaging 12.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 27 games for the French team that’s owned by former San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker.
Whitcomb was equally spectacular in the French finale and finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Both players are expected to fly to Seattle on Friday and will be on the Storm bench for Saturday’s regular-season opener, but it’s uncertain if they will play against Phoenix.
— Stewart, who has spent the past week rehabbing in Los Angeles, will also attend the opener that will include a ring ceremony commemorating the Storm’s 2018 WNBA championship.