Seattle's Bird ready for rebuilding, mentoring ahead
SEATTLE (AP) Shot after shot came off the fingers of Sue Bird, the swishing sound echoing through the practice gym, just like they have for most of her career.
No sound of the shots rattling off the rim or hitting the backboard.
''Everything that Sue does is definitive and she has a lot of confidence in what she does because she's been doing this for (13) years. She knows what is going to happen before it happens,'' new Seattle Storm guard Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. ''So it's kind of like it's effortless for her.''
When Seattle opens its season next week at home against Los Angeles, Bird will begin her 13th season with the franchise. She has experienced the highs of winning two WNBA titles and is now facing the challenge of helping lead a massive rebuilding project after Seattle's worst record of her tenure with the club.
She's still Sue Bird, the starting point guard idolized by a younger generation. But more than any other time in her professional career, with Seattle's selection of guards Jewell Loyd and Mosqueda-Lewis with two of the first three picks in the WNBA draft, Bird is adding the title of mentor.
''I think for a while, regardless of age I was always one of the more veteran players, one of the more experienced players so that part hasn't changed. The age of the other players has dropped significantly. That part is a little different,'' Bird said. ''It's something that I've talked to (Storm coach) Jenny (Boucek) a lot about and something I'm very aware of.
''So far it's been good. I really see the relationship between myself being one of the older players and the youth that we have being give and take. Hopefully, I'll be able to help them and at the same time having young people around you, it spices things up a little bit and that's a good thing for someone like me.''
Bird and the Storm are in the midst of a remodel, one which Bird briefly questioned whether she wanted to be part of. Gone is coach Brian Agler, who led Seattle to its second league title in 2010. Gone is long-time team president and general manager Karen Bryant, stepping away after a lengthy tenure in charge of the franchise. Still missing is two-time league MVP Lauren Jackson, her bright career having been hampered in recent seasons by nagging injuries.
Part of Bird's job now will be teaching Loyd and Mosqueda-Lewis the professional game.
''She's a legend,'' Loyd said. ''Just getting a chance to be on the same court with her and everything that she has done and just passing down knowledge is really helpful.''
At age 34 - Bird will turn 35 in October - she briefly considered searching for somewhere else to continue her WNBA career and avoid the rebuilding process. But she couldn't imagine being somewhere other than Seattle and she still has hopes of being part of a fourth Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro.
''There were moments where I thought, `How do I want to finish my career, what do I want that to look like?' At the end of the day nothing really compared to my feelings of wanting to stay in Seattle and wanting to be a part of what this franchise is doing,'' Bird said. ''And hey, I know, it could be tough. It could be difficult. There could be some really trying times and I know a lot of patience is going to be needed but nothing really pulled me away from this.''