Sue Bird underwent a scope on left knee earlier this month and did not participate in the Storm's first practice. It's unclear when she'll return.

Share story

At 36 — she turns 37 in October — Sue Bird is the oldest active player in the WNBA.

“Trust me,” she deadpanned. “It’s true. I feel it. When you reach this point, you just have to be careful about certain things.”

For the third straight year, Bird spent the offseason in Seattle and chose to work out with the Storm during the winter and spring rather than play overseas in hopes of reducing the wear and tear on her body.

Despite the precautions,  she “noticed something felt a little off” with her left knee several weeks ago.
An MRI revealed what Bird described as a “snow globe” of loose bodies floating in her knee that  were surgically removed earlier this month.

“At this point, it’s just me and my knee,” said the Storm point guard  who watched the  first training-camp practice from the sideline Sunday  at Seattle Pacific University. “That was the fifth (surgery) on just this one knee. Everything from ACL to microfracture. I’ve had it scoped before. One was midseason, like 10 years ago, in 2007. It’s just a part of it. I have arthritis in there. Stuff happens.

“In some weird only somebody who has had four previous surgeries on this limb would say, I was actually excited that it was fixable. It’s like, ‘OK, I get this.’ They clean it out. You’re brand new and you get to go back out there.”

There’s no timetable for Bird’s return. She could miss Seattle’s exhibition games  May 3 and May 7 against Phoenix.

And it’s unknown whether she makes it back for the May 13 regular-season opener at Los Angeles against the defending WNBA champions.

Bird, who begins her 15th season this year, has struggled with injuries recently. She sat out the 2013 season because of  surgery to remove a cyst from her right knee.

Last year, Bird played in all 35 games — including a first-round playoff loss to Atlanta —  during a turn-back-the-clock season in which she was voted first team All-WNBA after averaging 12.8 points and led the league with 5.8 assists.

Affectionately dubbed the “Human Computer” by former Washington Huskies standout  Kelsey Plum, Bird shot a career-best 44.4 percent on three-pointers, averaged 31.6 minutes —  the most since 2011 —  and showed no signs of slowing down in 2016.

If the Storm hopes to build on last year’s breakthrough season and win a playoff series for the first time since 2010, it will  need Bird to continue dominating younger opponents and winning a two-decades battle against Father Time.

“Where I want Sue is for the stretch run, primarily,” coach Jenny Boucek said. “That’s where she shines. Hopefully she’s back real soon. This could be quick. We’re going to be cautious.”

Meanwhile, Bird’s absence hastens the transition of power to Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, the 2016 and 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year winners, respectively.

Last year, they led Seattle in scoring in 30 of 35 games and ranked among the top 10 scorers in the league (Stewart was sixth at 18.3 points per game and Loyd eighth at 16.5).

“We’re not looking towards a future without Sue, but Jewell and I know that when she’s not on the court we have to step up our game even more,” Stewart said. “It’s a mixture of all of us — our starting five. Trying to figure things out. Not trying to do things just by ourselves.”

The Storm returns every starter and its top nine scorers from a team that was 16-18 last season and finished seventh in the 12-team league.

With so many veterans returning to their old roles, there appear to be  three open spots on the 12-player roster and few intriguing training-camp battles for minutes.

Still, Boucek is curious to see how newcomer Carolyn Swords, a 6-foot-6 center acquired in a January trade, fits alongside Stewart and forward Crystal Langhorne.

Noelle Quinn, a 10-year veteran, and rookie Alexis Peterson, the Storm’s top draft pick who was taken in the second round out of Syracuse, will also contend for backup point-guard duties.

With Bird out, Quinn worked with the first unit at Sunday’s practice while free agent Jennifer O’Neill and Peterson spent time with the backups.

And the Storm got a glimpse of life without the nine-time WNBA All-Star.

“It’s inevitable and you can’t play forever,” Bird said. “Does this surgery speak to that?  I don’t personally think so. But of course, at some point I’m going to stop playing. And we’re going to want to leave this team in good hands.  And that starts with players like Jewell and Stewie, for sure, but it’s also a point guard. We need another point guard to come in and take the reins.

“The sooner they can find that person, the better. And if I’m still playing and able to help in the process, I want to be a part of that.”


• Two players were absent on the opening day of  training camp. Forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is still playing in France and free agent signee Nikki Greene, a 6-4  center, is wrapping up commitments with a team in Poland.