Loyd is an intriguing candidate to replace Sue Bird whenever the 15-year veteran and future Hall of Famer decides to retire.
Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird watched from the sideline as Storm star Jewell Loyd took over the final minutes of Thursday’s training-camp practice.
With the ball in her hands, she sprinted and spun around defenders for layups. When the scout team blocked her path to the basket, she pulled up for midrange jumpers or floaters.
And when the defense adjusted and tilted toward the 5-foot-10 sensation, she fearlessly split double-teams with dribble-drives to the rim or flipped passes to teammates for open shots.
It was a glimpse into a possible future for Loyd — an emerging 23-year-old standout and an intriguing candidate to replace Bird whenever the 15-year veteran and future Hall of Famer decides to retire.
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“Sue is still here and she’s still dominating and I’m not going to mess with anything that’s working,” Loyd said. “Being the (playmaker) is Sue’s job, and she’s great at it.
“At times in one-on-one situations or late in the shot clock, the ball is probably going to be in my hands and I get to make a play for me and Stewie and Sue is in the corner. But for the most part, that’s Sue’s job.”
Loyd’s versatility gives the Storm options unlike many WNBA teams in a league where post and wing players comprised the top six scorers last season.
Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi ranked seventh and led all guards at 17.8 points per game while Loyd — eighth overall — was next at 16.5.
In the NBA, point guards such as Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Isaiah Thomas rank among the game’s stars because of their scoring prowess.
Meanwhile, the top WNBA point guards fill the role of pass-first playmakers like Bird, who led the league with 5.8 assists while averaging 12.8 points.
Still, converting Loyd to point guard the way the Houston Rockets did this season with Harden, an MVP front-runner, remains a possibility.
“Jewell has that ability to score and set up her teammates,” Bird said. “She’s still evolving in all of that. As you get older, you find out … that basketball is a game of when to, and not a game of how to. Jewell knows how to do all of it. It’s about her figuring out when to. When to attack. When to set your teammates up.
“James Harden is obviously an exceptional player and that system is all about the threes they shoot and spreading teams out. That’s kind of what we have. To have all of those threats and then attack.”
Coach Jenny Boucek said Loyd, who averaged 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds last season, could be a triple-double threat in 2017.
“As a team we want to take what the defense gives us, and Jewell has the talent to make them pay in a lot of different ways,” Boucek said. “We want her to have the ability to read the game and make them be always wrong.”
Loyd, who captured the Rookie of the Year award in 2015, had a breakout season last year in which she was voted to second-team All-WNBA. She improved her scoring, assists, steals and minutes while making a big jump from 20.8 percent to 30.3 in three-point field-goal accuracy.
“I want to be unguardable, and to do that, you have to be able to knock down shots,” Loyd said. “This offseason, I’ve been working on extended range and being comfortable shooting off-balance shots from three.
“I won’t be surprised if you see that go up another 10 percent. I’m confident shooting the ball, and the way we move the ball and get people open, it allows everyone to be a good shooter.”
During the fall and winter, Loyd played for the Shanxi Flame of the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association, where she averaged 34.6 points. An ankle injury cut her WCBA season short and she returned home to Chicago on Christmas Day. Loyd spent the past three months training in preparation for her third WNBA season.
“I’m still learning different stuff,” she said. “But I’m definitely more focused in the sense of competing on every possession and not just going through the motions.
“I’m trying to win every battle and every matchup that I can. … I’m in full attack mode all the time.”
• The Storm announced a multiyear TV extension with Q13 FOX and JOEtv. JOEtv (ch. 22, cable 110) will broadcast the Storm’s 2017 regular-season home games.
All Storm road games will be broadcast on a combination of WNBA LiveAccess, NBATV, ESPN or ESPN2, including the team’s season opener in Los Angeles on May 13 at 2 p.m. on ESPN. The Storm home opener against Indiana at 4 p.m. on May 14 will be on both Ch. 13 and JOEtv.