EVERETT — Jordin Canada doesn’t seem like the type of person who would root for an injury. Especially when that injury involves the WNBA’s all-time assists leader and the Storm’s undisputed leader.
But when Sue Bird announced she would undergo knee surgery that would sideline her indefinitely, it did create an opportunity. And Saturday, Canada took advantage.
In the Storm’s first game of the season, the second-year point guard tallied 16 points, six assists and three steals. In a 77-68 win over the Mercury, the UCLA product showed that, as upsetting as Bird’s absence may be, it may be a blessing for the franchise’s future.
After an erratic first half fraught with unforced errors, Canada calmed down and guided the Storm to a victory despite trailing by as many as 11 points. It was poise personified and suggested that maybe, just maybe, the Storm will still have a potent floor general when Bird finally says goodbye.
“It sucks when anyone gets injured, but to have one of our biggest leaders on the floor go out, you know it’s a chance for me to step up and lead my team in the way I know and just gain confidence,” said Canada, who hit seven of her 13 field-goal attempts Saturday. “I thought in the first half I was overthinking it too much. I wasn’t playing with a lot of poise and patience. And in the second half, my teammates talked to me, my coaches talked to me, telling me to stay in the moment and don’t overthink and just play your game in the second half. I thought I did a much better job.”
Canada did indeed struggle through those first two quarters, when she committed six of her game-high seven turnovers. Over the next 20 minutes, however, she put up 10 points and two assists as the Storm led by as many as 14.
Yes, it’s just one game — a game that came against a Diana Taurasi-less Mercury team. But it offered a glimpse as to what last year’s fifth overall draft pick is capable of.
Bird’s health was never going to be the difference in the Storm repeating as WNBA champs. That goal died the moment reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart tore her Achilles tendon in Europe last month. So one could argue that Sue’s surgery will actually benefit this team in the long run, as Canada gets a season to develop.
It’s important for her to have the kind of first halves she had Saturday. It’s critical for her to be exposed to the world’s best for 30-plus minutes at a time.
Get those turnovers out of the way now, when the championship pressure is off. Make those rookie-like mistakes this year, when a deep playoff run is highly unlikely.
Posting 16 points, six assists and three steals probably won’t be the norm for Canada, but the cool thing is — we’re going to find out.
Satisfying as the win was for the Storm, it’s hard to think it was the highlight of the day. That came a couple of hours earlier, when the players received their championship rings for last year’s title.
Stewart was out there, as was Bird and head coach Dan Hughes, who has temporarily given the reins to assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg as Hughes recovers from cancer surgery. And, of course, there was Canada, who was wowed by the moment, and even more wowed by the jewelry.
“The rings are huge, humongous,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that, but it’s beautiful.”
Several unexpected events over the past few months have had a drastic effect on the Storm. But there may be some unexpected positives along the way.
Canada embodied that Saturday. She came up huge — humongous, even. And the result was beautiful.