Aaron Last/Storm Photos
Bird Feels at Home on First Day of Practice
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | May 6, 2010
When All-Star point guard Sue Bird arrived in Seattle Wednesday night to begin her ninth season with the Storm, right away she knew she was back in a familiar place.
"I didn't land last night until about 10:30, so by the time I got to my apartment it was about 11:30," Bird recalled. "I immediately felt at home. I don't have to worry about anything - all my clothes, my toothbrush, it's all there. It's a nice feeling, especially when you live out of a bag the way I do. Even though we turn around and leave tomorrow, I still do feel very comfortable."
And though Bird had some work on Thursday adjusting to some tweaks to Brian Agler's offense, Thursday's practice had a similar feeling.
"The same goes when I step on the court," she said. "You just kind of walk right in and get back to work. They've added some stuff, so it's actually been a learning day for me just in terms of offenses. Everything else is status quo."
Bird assured that last September, when she signed a multi-year contract extension to remain with the Storm rather than testing the free-agent market. That was the first in a series of extensions and new contracts, including ones for Agler and fellow All-Star Lauren Jackson, that ensured the Storm's core will be together for the 2010 season and beyond.
There are still some new faces, however, including several at Bird's position as the Storm seeks to solidify the backup point guard spot. While veteran Loree Moore's status is a question mark after an MRI conducted Thursday revealed she had torn the meniscus in her left knee, her addition along with drafting Alison Lacey and inviting Lindsey Wilson to training camp gives the Storm several options at the position.
"I think they're great," said Bird of the newcomers at the point. "I was really excited when we drafted Alison. I got a look at her a little bit today. She does a lot of really good things. She can also play the two-spot, so I think that's really good to be not just a point guard. It's good to be versatile. Loree, she didn't play today, but I know her game. If healthy, she can be a great addition. Same with Lindsey. She's somebody who's been here a couple of times, everybody knows her, and she's a really tough competitor. It's going to be interesting."
Overall, Bird was impressed by the level of play on her first day of training camp, echoing what Agler has said about the quality of talent on hand.
"It's a really competitive training camp so far," she said. "Brian's subbing a lot and looking at everybody and there's no drop-off. The minute the starters leave the court, you don't notice a difference. I think it's going to be really hard. A lot of decisions are going to be tough."
Playing in Russia for Spartak Moscow Region without Jackson as her teammate for the first time since 2006-07, Bird and fellow WNBA stars Sylvia Fowles, Janel McCarville and Diana Taurasi claimed their fourth consecutive Euroleague championship. The season ended on a down note, however, with Spartak swept by rival UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Superleague Finals despite Bird averaging 13.3 points per game in the three-game series.
Bird joked that she could complain about the officiating, which saw Fowles and Taurasi spend much of Game 2 in foul trouble, since, "I guess I can't get fined." However, she gave credit to Ekaterinburg for playing well in the series.
"No one likes to get swept," said Bird. "It was an interesting last couple of games. They're a very good team. In some ways, we're fortunate that we beat them in Euroleague. Look at their roster. In Russian League, the rules are a little different - you have to have two Russians on the court. I think that favored them, but they played very well. I think two of the games could have gone either way. One game they kind of took it to us. It is what it is. Luckily, we got Euroleague, which is the big one, so I'll go home with that and feel happy."
At the conclusion of the series, Bird headed back to New York for a brief break to see family and friends - and, she noted, get to a beach, something that's difficult to do during the Russian winters. While Spartak takes great care of its players, Bird is still happy to be back in a place she considers home. Her favorite thing?
"The food," she said. "It's nice. And just how accessible things are. The sky's the limit when this practice is over. I can go to the store. It's so much harder getting places. Also, I can drive now. We don't drive when we're in Russia, which can be kind of tough. Right now, I'm the master of my own kingdom and it's nice."