NEW YORK (AP) Sue Bird is used to wacky schedules playing basketball year round. Even the veteran point guard was at a loss for the tough start her Seattle Storm have endured this season.
The Storm will play 10 of their first 13 games on the road - the most in league history to begin a season according to STATS. The reason for the imbalanced schedule is that the Key Arena, where the Storm play their home games, hosts a lot of high school and college graduations in May, leaving few open dates.
''It definitely is the hardest start of the season we've ever had,'' Bird said. ''Being on the road at the beginning is tough, not to mention the back-to-backs.''
Seattle lost for the fourth time in its first five games with a 70-64 defeat to New York on Tuesday night. The Storm looked in control, leading by eight with 3 minutes left before New York rallied for the win.
''We let this one get away,'' said Bird, who had 17 of her 21 points in the first half. ''You try to get a few wins on the road and this was one of them we should have had.''
It was especially tough loss for Bird, a New York native who had 50 family and friends in attendance. Due to another scheduling quirk, Bird and the Storm got to spend a few days in New York City, allowing Bird a chance to catch up with her family.
''For me, that's the best part about this trip. Even though we're on the road, the one silver lining for me is that we're in New York for four days,'' she said. ''I never had that much time here.''
Seattle will close out a five-game eastern swing on Friday in Atlanta. Then the team will return home for a game before heading back out on the road again.
What makes the road trips more difficult, is that unlike other pro sports, WNBA teams don't charter flights. The teams travel commercially. After losing to Connecticut on Friday, the Storm had to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Washington, D.C., the next morning to play that night.
''It's tough. You really have to manage your time, in terms of sleep,'' Bird said. ''You get to D.C. at 8 or 9 in the morning and all you want to do is sleep, but you have to eat too. You have to set your alarm to get up just to eat. Got to figure it all out. For people who are new to this league it can be definitely difficult.''
It isn't the first time that Seattle has had a tough opening to the season. The Storm played nine of their first 13 away from home last season and seven of nine the year before. Even with the road heavy schedule to begin the season last year, the Storm still made the playoffs.
''The one plus is that you bond on the road because you're forced to be around each other for a long period of time,'' Seattle coach Brian Agler said. ''There aren't as many distractions.''
The other good news for the Storm is that after they play at Indiana on June 11, they won't have to come east of Minnesota and Tulsa the rest of the season and close out the year with nine of 11 at home.
''You just try and get through it and see where you stand,'' Agler said. ''It might work out where we can stay competitive and stay in the hunt and see where we are at that point.''
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg