Bird underwent three surgeries on her hips and knee in 2011 and 2012. The 35-year-old has a new diet and conditioning program, and she is having her best season since 2011.
“I played like crap,” Sue Bird said simply when asked about the previous two years.
The Storm star just wasn’t herself.
In fact, she had not felt like herself — arguably the WNBA’s best point guard — since doctors began cutting into her legs.
Atlanta @ Storm, 7 p.m., ESPN3 (online)
Bird had surgery in 2011 on the labrum in her right hip, and the left one was repaired in 2012. She had a cyst removed from her left knee in 2013, which forced her to miss that season and put her on a long road to recovery.
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“I had three surgeries in a span of a two years, and to be honest I don’t think I really understood what that was going to do to me and my body,” Bird said. “Even though I rehabbed and I recovered and I played (in 2014 and 2015), I wasn’t where I needed to be.
“When you go through something like that you have to look in the mirror at some point and either be satisfied with it or see if you can do something about it. … I wanted to get as healthy and as strong as possible.”
After the surgeries, Bird adopted an anti-inflammatory diet heavy on sweet potatoes and avocados, tailored to boost her energy and immune levels.
She also began to reshape her 5-foot-9, 150-pound frame with a strategic and holistic offseason conditioning program of weightlifting, yoga and massages, designed by coach Jenny Boucek and Susan Borchardt, the Storm’s sports-performance trainer.
“It’s all geared around getting me ready for the season,” said the 35-year-old Bird, who is enjoying her finest season since 2011. “The other part of it, I really focused on what basketball things I needed to work on and where I was having slippage in my game. That’s where Jenny really came in and helped me with that stuff.”
It all came together in Friday’s 98-81 win over Connecticut — a virtuoso performance in which she finished with 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes.
Entering Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game at KeyArena against Atlanta (8-6), the Storm (5-9) is seeking its first consecutive wins of the season.
Through 14 games, Bird is averaging 13.7 points — the most since 2011. She’s dishing out a league-high 5.6 assists per game — a personal high dating to 2010.
And she’s shooting 48.9 percent from the field, including 44.3 percent on three-pointers. Her career bests are 46.3 and 43.8 respectively — both in 2004.
“That’s a confidence thing,” Bird said of her improved shooting. “The health plays into that as well.
“When you’re healthy, you can practice. And shooting is repetition, building your confidence up, then going out and doing it. A lot of it is mental.”
It also helps to play with two of the brightest young talents in the league in forward Breanna Stewart and guard Jewell Loyd. They have combined to average more points (48.6) than any trio in the WNBA.
Bird also attributes her resurgence to not playing in Russia during the offseason the past two years. Though most professional women basketball players play 11 months during the year, Bird’s focus has been on the Storm and the upcoming Rio Olympics. She has been a mainstay for Team USA.
“She’s done the work early in the career so she doesn’t have to do it later, and that’s something I really take note of,” said Loyd, Bird’s 22-year-old backcourt mate. “She played overseas for 10 years, and now she doesn’t have to do that. She can take care of her body and take the steps to make sure she’s all good mentally and physically to be her best during the WNBA season.”
Bird also is averaging 33.1 minutes — seventh-highest in the WNBA — and the most since 2009.
“We would definitely like to find more rest for her,” Boucek said. “There’s a big difference for our team when she’s on the floor and when she’s not.
“We’d like to close that gap, but right now she’s that valuable.”
Bird has been somewhat vague on retirement recently, but it’s a subject she won’t have to think about any time soon if she continues at her torrid pace.
“That’s a question that only time can answer,” she said. “I’m not dodging it. It’s really how I feel. I’m not at a place to say one more year or two more years or whatever it is.
“Here’s my most honest and truthful answer: It’s one year at a time, because when I make that decision it’s going to be based — I think almost 100 percent — on how I feel. And there’s no way to predict that.”
• Center Markeisha Gatling, who was waived by the Storm on June 25, was signed by Atlanta in time for Tuesday’s game. She averaged 5.8 minutes and 2.3 points with Seattle this season.
|A look at the past four Storm seasons for guard Sue Bird, who missed 2013 because of a knee injury:|