Storm Q&A: Sue Bird
Two and a half months after Sept. 27 surgery to repair her right hip labrum, Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird is back on the court. Bird has been working hard to rehab at the University of Connecticut in preparation for joining her new Russian team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, after the holidays. From Connecticut, Bird caught up with StormBasketball.com to talk about the rehab process, what she expects overseas and Sunday's showdown between Baylor and UConn, the nation's top two teams.
StormBasketball.com: Where are you at in the recovery from surgery right now?
Bird: Basically, rehab is over. I'm playing now. I got cleared about two, two and a half weeks ago to do non-contact. It was a progression. Probably for a good week, week and a half now, I've been doing everything. I'm a full go.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Bird has been able to test her surgically repaired hip while practicing with the University of Connecticut and her former coach Geno Auriemma.
So does that mean you're playing in game situations right now?
That's definitely been the beauty of doing my rehab out here in Connecticut. In the early stages of my rehab, I had access to all the facilities I would need like a pool, training room, a court. Now I can practice with the team. It's as game-like as you're going to get without actually being in a game.
How has that gone?
It's going well. I do workouts with [former teammate] Shea Ralph, one of the coaches. She puts me through an hour-long, individual workout, so that's a chance for me to get some individual attention. Then I just go to practice and whatever they are doing, I jump in on. I play against the team when they play five-on-five.
In the past, you've dealt with rehabbing several knee surgeries. Was this process similar?
It's definitely different. It's a different part of the body, the healing process is different. It was a learning experience, but I have to say, in comparison to some of my knee surgeries, this one was pretty straightforward. I think I'm pretty lucky because, for the most part, it was relatively easy. Occasionally I get sore, but really no pain. I feel good. Having the luxury of time on my side really helped.
Were you able to progress gradually because you weren't returning in the middle of a season?
Obviously with the hip, the longer you have, the better. That's really true for any injury, any rehab. You never want to rush into anything. With the hip, they say the longer you have, the better. For me, I went into the whole process with the game plan of being 100 percent, in shape, have already been playing by Jan. 1. I could go to Russia and not miss a beat. That's how my rehab was laid out. It was really about going through the procession of things and getting ready one step at a time. To be honest, I feel like I'm in a place where I'm just trying to get my conditioning back. In terms of my body and my health, I feel 100 percent. I just want to be able to play however long my team needs me to play per game.
Has undergoing surgery affected how you've been able to spend your time off here in the country?
Yes and no. I've definitely been spending a lot more time up at UConn than I probably would have, but it's not so bad. Being able to do my rehab here, they've taken such great care of me and everyone's been great to me, so there's that. But I'm also very close - very close to New York, very close to Boston. I've been able to hang out with my friends and see people and go see my family and that kind of thing, but also get the best rehab possible. I couldn’t have really asked for a better situation than what I've had the last couple of months.
Is it nice to have the rehab process done before the holidays?
Yeah, it is. The rehab hasn't been too terrible, but it's always nice when you feel normal again - when you're not worried about sitting in the wrong position or avoiding this or avoiding that. You just kind of live your life. It's always a good thing. Now that it's the holidays, I'll definitely be able to go home, hang out with everyone and relax. Hopefully I'll get some workouts in, of course, but for the most part I just hope to really enjoy my time.
Have you been following UMMC Ekaterinburg from afar?
Yeah, of course. Just got a big win today [over Galatasaray and friend Diana Taurasi].
Will it be difficult to join a new team midseason, or do you have enough experience playing in different situations that you will be able to fit in quickly?
I think a little bit of both. The luxury that I've had the last five seasons of playing on the same team is when I did go back midseason, it was virtually the same roster and the same coaching staff. I was familiar with everything, so I was able to just pick up where I left off the year before. Obviously this is a little different because it's my first year with the team, my first year with these players. But I'm very familiar with all of them. Some of them I've played with. I've certainly played against, if not all of them, I'd be surprised. With that being said, will there be an adjustment? Of course, but it's something I've had to deal with before and I'm familiar with all those players. Once I learn the system, it will be pretty easy. Really, I'm going there and whatever the team needs me to do to be successful, that's what I want to do.
Is there anyone you're really looking forward to playing with on the roster?
I've played with Candace (Parker); I've played against Candace. I've played with Svet (Abrosimova); I've played against Svet. There are a few people on that team like Tweety Nolan and Maria Stepanova and Sandrine Gruda that I'm never played with; I've only played against them. I think it will be fun to play alongside them as opposed to having to attempt to guard them. That's always a fun thing.
After playing together both here and in Russia, Lauren Jackson is now your rival on Ros Casares Valencia. What's that like?
That's the beauty of women's basketball. You play on so many teams year-round whether it's the WNBA or overseas or your national team. One day you're teammates with someone; the next day they're enemies. It goes with the territory. It will be fun. The thing about overseas is, when you play against one of your friends, the best part is you get to see a familiar face in a foreign country.
After practicing with UConn, do you have any insight into the game against Baylor?
That's obviously the biggest game of the year to date. No. 1 vs. No. 2. Any time you go on the road, it's going to be hard. You have a team in Baylor that, with Brittney Griner, they're very, very tough to play against. Coach Auriemma, his teams, they're always well prepared. It doesn't matter that they're young. It doesn't matter that they may not have depth at the post position. I just think the manner and the way in which they play is really difficult to play against. It's 100 percent all the time and competing every possession. I think no matter who's on the other team, that's going to be hard. I know when I'm in practice, they're very difficult to guard with the way they move and the way they play. With that being said, Brittney Griner is tough. She's someone where you have to know where she is offensively and defensively at all times. That can be hard. She can change a game. It should be interesting.