Storm's Sue Bird needs knee surgery, will be out indefinitely

Sue Bird (AP file photo)

SEATTLE — Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird needs arthroscopic surgery on her left knee and will be out indefinitely, another big blow for the defending WNBA champs.

The Storm said Tuesday that the 11-time All-Star has a loose body in her knee. Bird will undergo surgery in Connecticut in the near future and will return to Seattle for rehab.

"The most important thing to us is that Sue is healthy and strong. Based on her feedback and evaluation from her longtime surgeon and our medical team, it was determined the best course of action was a scope," Storm CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis said. "We have confidence this will support Sue's full recovery and we look forward to her return to the court."

The news about Bird is the third significant setback for Seattle in recent weeks. Reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart is out for the season after tearing her Achilles tendon playing overseas. The status of head coach Dan Hughes is uncertain. He underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his digestive tract. first reported on Bird's surgery. Bird did not play in either of Seattle's preseason games.

"It’s sad because I think of my overall health and this is like my one issue – this guy right here has always been the issue," Bird said while touching her knee during a press conference with reporters after Tuesday's team practice at Seattle Pacific University.

"For this team this year, it’s gonna be tough because we’re the defending champions and people are gonna come at us in that way. But it’s not the same exact team. And so they just need to write their own story," Bird added.

The Storm open the season hosting Phoenix on Saturday at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. Tip-off is 12:30 P.M. A ring ceremony will be held prior to the game to celebrate the franchise's third WNBA title. The ring ceremony begins at 12 P.M.

"This is my opportunity to step up and have a big role and lead my team, so that’s all I’m focused on. But no pressure," said Jordin Canada. "Everyone’s gonna have a chance to step up and have a bigger responsibility than they did last year and we’re all prepared for it. And so, we’re just trying to focus on that as a team."

"It’s gonna take us a few weeks to kinda get our feet wet and see where we’re at, but I mean – I’m very optimistic that we can be an outstanding team still," said Assistant Coach Gary Kloppenburg.

Fans like long-time Storm season ticket holder Carolyn Bechtel remain optimistic.

"I still have high expectations because I think the rest of the team can step it up and we’ve got a good nucleus on the team," Bechtel told KOMO News after learning the news about Sue Bird.

This will be the second time in her Seattle career Bird has been sidelined by knee problems for most, if not all, of a WNBA season. She missed the 2013 season after undergoing surgery to remove a cyst from her left knee.

Bird won her third WNBA title last season at age 37 after helping Seattle to a three-game sweep of Washington in the league finals. But it was Game 5 of the Western Conference finals that will be remembered as perhaps Bird's best game as a professional. She scored 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter as Seattle rallied to oust Phoenix.

"It happened so recently you don't want to get too high on something that was recent, but when it's all said and done I'm pretty sure that will be the defining moment of my career," Bird said recently, prior to news of her knee problem.

Bird averaged 10.1 points and a career-high 7.1 assists per game last season, while also shooting a career-best 46.6% from the field and 44.8% on 3s. Her absence is going to put more on the plate of second-year guard Jordin Canada and Jewell Loyd. Bird and Stewart contributed an average of 32 points per game combined last season for the Storm.

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