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Sue Bird watched Sunday's game from the bench but expects to play on Tuesday. (Neil Enns/Storm Photos)

Bird Expects to Return Tuesday

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | Sept. 17, 2012

With just eight players available because of injuries, the Seattle Storm fought hard for 40 minutes in a narrow 60-58 loss to the Connecticut Sun Sunday at KeyArena. As the Storm prepares to return to the court Tuesday, hosting the Chicago Sky (7:00 p.m., 1090 AM, ), there are indications the team could be closer to full strength.

Forward Alysha Clark, who sat out Sunday because she was under the weather with the flu, practice Monday and is expected to be available. The Storm could also have back starting point guard Sue Bird, who has missed the last three games after her left hip flared up early in last Tuesday's game at Atlanta. Bird went through a brief workout after the team's practice - which consisted mostly of a walkthrough preparing for the Sky - to test her ability to move quickly, especially on the defensive end. She was pleased with the results.

"I feel a lot better than I did five days ago, so to me that's a huge plus," Bird said. "Working out yesterday and then again today, it didn't feel any worse - also a huge plus. I'm looking forward to playing."

Storm Head Coach Brian Agler was a bit more cautious in his assessment. Before getting the chance to speak to Bird after her workout, he said he believed that she would play against Chicago but would not commit to it.

While Bird was working out, Storm center Lauren Jackson was shooting at the other end of the court. Jackson, who has sat out two games due to a strained left hamstring she originally sustained training with the Australian National Team for the Olympics, wants to return Tuesday.

"I'll be back, hopefully, tomorrow," she said. "I feel like I need to be out there ready to make sure that I'm ready, 100 percent mentally for the playoffs."

The Storm is still gathering more information on Jackson's condition. She was scheduled to undergo an MRI after practice and to meet with a specialist on Tuesday. Until hearing that opinion, the Storm won't know how to proceed with Jackson for the season's final three games. Still, Jackson is confident she can play through the injury if need be.

"I've had it for a while," she said. "It's something that at the Olympics I had. It's something that's been lingering."

For Bird, nearly a week's worth of rest has been helpful for her hip, which normally does not bother her but can become problematic at times. She had a similar issue with her right hip, on which she had surgery last fall, early in the season, and compared it other minor injuries she's dealt with in the past.

"Sometimes they happen, you've got to let them calm down, and then you're good to go," said Bird. "I'm really fortunate that I had the time to do that because the tough part is if you don't let it calm down, it could turn into a bigger issue that you're dealing with for months or years, and you don't want that to happen."

The timing did work relatively well for Bird. While the Storm's fixed position as the fourth seed in the Western Conference gave her some leeway to get the rest she needed, she will also be able to play before the start of the playoffs. In 2009, a more serious neck injury caused Bird to miss the team's final three games of the regular season. Her first game back was also Game 1 of the Storm's playoff series with L.A., and Bird shot 1-of-9 from the field.

"There's always some kinks," she explained. "There's always a flow and a rhythm that you have to get back to as an individual and, from a point guard standpoint, as a team. To have to do that in Game 1 of the playoffs, I felt like that was my adjustment game and I was good by Game 2. To have a week, I feel really good about that."

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