2012 in Review: Sue Bird
Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | Nov. 15, 2012
2012 was a busy year for Sue Bird. The Seattle Storm's point guard had to balance her WNBA season with representing the USA in the Olympics. The juggling act started in the preseason, when Bird spent a weekend going back and forth between the Storm and the USA team, which practiced in Seattle as its first time together as a unit in 2012.
As Bird rejoined the Storm for training camp, she found a variety of new faces. Her task as point guard was to help integrate the new pieces into the team's lineup to jell as quickly as possible. That took some time. The Storm struggled with turnovers, and despite 15 points on Opening Night and a nine-assist outing in a loss at Minnesota on May 27, Bird wasn't quite herself in the early going.
With fellow Olympian Lauren Jackson out of the lineup, Bird was called on to do more scoring than usual. She shined in that role on June 1, putting up 27 points as the Storm won its first game of 2012 over the Shock. In the early part of the year, the Storm's fortunes rose and fell with Bird's performance. She closed out a tough road trip with 21 points at Tulsa as the Storm snapped a four-game losing streak, than repeated that output two nights later at home to help the Storm hand the Minnesota Lynx their first loss of the season.
During the Storm's five-game winning streak in the month of June, Bird scored double-figures each game. The highpoint of the stretch was a 25-point game at Washington on June 26. Bird made nine of her 14 shot attempts.
Throughout the season, Bird's hip would be an ongoing concern. It first cropped up on July 7, when Bird missed the Storm's loss at Los Angeles due to soreness in the hip that she would manage the rest of the year. Fans feared Bird might have to miss her own bobblehead night at KeyArena 24 hours later, but after fans got her likeness draped in an American flag, Bird returned to action and put on a show. She made her first nine shot attempts and finished 10 of 11 from the field, tying a Storm record for accuracy with a minimum of eight field goals. Bird's 31 points were a season high and the most she had scored since setting her career high with 33 points during her rookie year.
Bird was more of a distributor in the Storm's last two games before the Olympic Break, handing out a combined 17 assists before heading to the East Coast to join Geno Auriemma and her USA teammates. For the second consecutive Olympics, Bird served as the starting point guard. She averaged 6.1 points and a team-high 4.5 assists per game in winning her third gold medal and the fifth in a row for the USA women.
Days after returning to Seattle, Bird was in the starting lineup when the Storm hosted Phoenix in the first game of the second half of the season. She left after just 10 minutes due to illness and missed a loss to Los Angeles while recovering. Back in the lineup on Aug. 21 against Minnesota, Bird scored 17 points. Shortly thereafter, the Storm added Jackson. In the team's first game all season with a full 11-player roster, Bird had her only double-double of 2012 (18 points and 10 assists) in an 84-66 win over New York.
Jackson's return allowed Bird to serve in the more comfortable role of playmaker the remainder of the regular season. After the Storm clinched a ninth consecutive trip to the playoffs, Bird's hip tightened up and she missed three games, all of them losses (the Storm finished 0-5 without Bird) before playing in the last three games of the regular season to prepare to face league-leading Minnesota in the playoffs.
While she was able to play, Bird's health was still a concern at the start of the postseason series. She struggled in Game 1, committing five turnovers, and was not on the floor at the end of the game. By Game 2, Bird was feeling better, and she responded with a critical effort. She scored 22 points and handed out seven assists, including setting up the Jackson three that forced overtime, as the Storm defeated Minnesota in double-OT to extend the series. Bird had just three turnovers in 43 minutes of action, a season high.
During the deciding Game 3, Bird helped keep the Storm in the game with her play. She handed out 11 assists, her most of any game in 2012, and scored 18 points. Bird's three with 35.0 seconds remaining brought the Storm within one, and gave the team a chance to win, but Jackson's shot at the buzzer rimmed out as the Lynx survived the series.
At exit interviews two days later, Bird revealed to reporters that she was scheduled for surgery on her left hip the following day. After undergoing surgery to repair her right hip labrum after the 2011 season, Bird had to have the procedure on her left hip after its condition worsened over the course of the season. She expects to make a full recovery in time to join her Russian team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, after the New Year.
- Scored a season-high 31 points on 10-of-11 shooting on July 7 vs. Phoenix.
- Handed out a season-high 10 assists twice (June 13 and Aug. 26) and 11 assists during the playoffs.
- Recorded one double-double during the regular season (Aug. 26) and one more in the playoffs (Oct. 2), her first postseason double-double since 2004.
- Finished third in the WNBA in assists per game (5.3).
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