Bird’s Impact Felt in Return to Practice

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Kevin Pelton, | May 4, 2006
Now, the Seattle Storm's training camp can really get going. On Wednesday, All-Star point guard Sue Bird arrived in Seattle, took her physical and got a quick update on the tweaks to the Storm's offense and defense. Thursday, Bird was back on the floor and running the point for the Storm like she had been for weeks. Instantly, Bird changed the tone and tempo of training camp.

"We all felt better today, even though she's absolutely exhausted," said Coach Anne Donovan. "She just makes a difference on the floor."

"I haven't really slept much with the jetleg. Other than that, I feel great."
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty
Bird's season with her Dynamo Moscow club in Russia ended on Sunday, when Dynamo defeated Spartak Moscow to win their best-of-five series 3-0 and earn third place in the Russian Superleague. Bird returned to the states the next day, spending a couple of days in New York, before arriving in Seattle on Wednesday.

"I haven't really slept much with the jetleg," she said. "For some reason, I'm having trouble this time - three hours a night-type stuff. I got seven last night. Other than that, I feel great. It's great to get back, sleep in my own bed, that type of stuff."

Bird took advantage of the Storm's day off on Wednesday to get her physical completed and get a quick tutorial with new Storm Assistant Heidi VanDerveer.

"There are definitely some different things we're doing as a team that I had to pick up on," Bird said. "But yesterday, I met with Heidi and she showed me the little things in the offenses. They're not major things; just little tweaks here and there - and on defense. Learning that, once I stepped on the court, it felt natural and comfortable."

It felt comfortable for her teammates as well, as they picked up their games in one of the best practices thus far during training camp.

"Hopefully, everybody can just start to get used to me - the new players," said Bird. "Because right away I'm going to know what they're good at; I'm going to try put them in positions where they can be successful. You can tell just by looking one time."

Donovan particularly saw Bird's presence helping the other players who are playing the point for the Storm.

"We've been talking a lot in the first week of training camp, but Sue can show them," said Donovan. "In one day, I think our point guards understand a little differently what we're asking. Now they get what the words mean, because they've been able to see the picture."

Throughout her time chatting with the media, Bird was noticeably upbeat, to the point that one reporter asked her, "You're really excited, aren't you?"

"I love it," she answered. "I think we're on our way. You can just feel it. There's a really good feel in practice. I know that Lauren (Jackson)'s not out there, JB's ( Janell Burse) just starting, Izi (Castro Marques)'s not here yet, but still, you can feel it. We have a really good group."

Bird praised the addition of veteran forward Wendy Palmer, a vocal leader who takes some leadership pressure off of Bird and Jackson, who have generally preferred to lead by example instead of taking on a vocal leadership role. With Palmer and rookie Barbara Turner new to the team and the Storm's core intact, Bird is ready to think big.

Storm guard Sue Bird and forward Lauren Jackson are nominated for the WNBA's All-Decade Team. Click here to vote!
"I think expectations are where they should be," she said. "We're trying to win the Western Conference; we're trying to win a WNBA Championship. I think we have the pieces to do that; I really believe it."

Bird enjoyed her time in Russia during her second season with Dynamo.

"Our team was good," said Bird. "I got used to it, because it was my second year."

While playing for Dynamo, Bird was able to put away the mask she's had to wear each of the last two WNBA seasons after breaking her nose, sharing, "What was our last game? Houston? Haven't put it on since." Playing international ball also allowed Bird another season to get accustomed to the four-quarter system and the 24-second shot clock, both of which will go into use in the WNBA this season.

Bird also cleared up the mystery surrounding the game she missed during the Russian Superleague Playoffs last week, leading to rumors of injury on the Internet.

"It was nothing serious," she explained. "The game before, I got knocked around. It would take me like an hour to explain what really happened, but they asked me if I wanted to rest, and I said, 'Sure.'"

Back in Seattle, Bird wanted to be on the floor. Despite her fatigue, "I didn't really sub for her very much today," said Donovan. Having Bird on the court made all the difference for the Storm.