Dan Hughes won’t let himself dwell in self-pity, regret or despair.
“What’s the point?” the Storm coach said smiling.
No one would blame Hughes for feeling forlorn after All-Star guard Jewell Loyd sustained a right ankle sprain and bone bruise that will sideline her for at least two weeks and possibly much longer.
It’s been an ill-fated season for the defending WNBA champions, which surprisingly got off to a relatively fast start considering the absence of reigning MVP Breanna Stewart and perennial All-Star Sue Bird.
Few teams can sustain the loss of its top three players and yet, Hughes is trying to devise lineups and schemes that will keep the Storm (7-5) in playoff contention.
Before Friday’s 7 p.m. game against Chicago (6-4) at Alaska Airlines Arena, Hughes needed to convince himself and his players that they can still win games.
“I got up in the middle of the night and had a quiet time with myself,” he said. “They need to look at me and see somebody that believes and have faith in a high expectation of the Storm, whatever form of the Storm that is.
“If I think the other way, I just can’t figure out what good that would do.”
Hughes wouldn’t give a specific timetable on Loyd’s return, but a MRI revealed Loyd suffered a severe ankle sprain that will “keep her out awhile.”
She will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Typically, similar injuries require 2-4 weeks to recover.
“I felt for her because it was awkward,” Hughes said. “I wasn’t quite sure what we were dealing with. … When she went down immediately, I knew it wasn’t the type of thing that a player walks off. I wasn’t quite sure what it was.
“I do think when it was all said and done that it could have been worse. I’m thankful for that.
Before leaving Tuesday’s game at Las Vegas midway in the first quarter, the 5-foot-10 guard was playing her best basketball of the year.
Last Sunday, she scored 21 points, including the game-winning layup in the final seconds to beat Indiana. And in the previous outing, Loyd tallied a season-high 23 points during a win over Los Angeles.
“She’s really come into a leadership role and a player that really accepts being played to at key times,” Hughes said. “I felt that. When you get that in a player, obviously you want to let that grow.”
The fifth-year veteran, who is averaging 15.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists, appeared to be on track to earning a second straight All-Star invitation before the injury.
“She brings that tenacity on the defensive end,” guard Jordin Canada said. “Obviously, her scoring and coming off pick-n-rolls and being able to keep the defense guessing (is) something she really brings to this team.
“Everybody is going to have to step up and play a bigger knowing that she’s out for however long.”
The Storm still has an emerging star in do-everything forward Natasha Howard, who is averaging 18.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.7 blocks.
Still, it remains to be seen if Seattle, which ranks ninth in the 12-team WNBA while averaging 73.7 points per game, can develop other viable offensive options.
Canada, who missed three of the previous four games due to a left knee injury, returns to the starting lineup and should provide a boost.
However, it’s unclear who will join her in the backcourt. Potential candidates include: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Sami Whitcomb or Shavonte Zellous.
“It’s not about who’s not here, it’s about who is here,” Canada said. “That’s what we love about this team. No matter who’s not playing, we’re going to fight to the best of our ability and just play together as a team.
“Everybody is prepared to step up in a major way and play a big role.”
Despite a rash of injuries that’s resulted in four different lineups and 34 missed games not including Stewart, who is suspended and not with the team this season, the Storm has found a constant on the defensive end.
Seattle ranks first in the WNBA in points allowed (71.8) and has allowed fewer than 63 points in each of the past three games.
“We got to find a way to make this group successful for us,” Hughes said. “What they’ve done for us is they really value the defensive end. They value extra effort. You got that constant going for you.
“We’ve had to adjust on the fly with players in and out of the lineup. … Natasha has really established herself and we need to develop a partner with her. That was Jewell. Now it has to be someone else.”
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