The Seattle Storm headed into the 2019 WNBA season with a lot of question marks due to some key injuries to last season’s MVP Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. With two key injuries like that comes lots of adjustments.
In the season’s opener last Saturday, the Storm looked like they had made those adjustments properly and beat the Phoenix Mercury 77-68. Natasha Howard, Crystal Langhorne, Jewell Lloyd and Jordin Canada all posted double-digit scoring nights. The only starter held under the 10-point threshold was Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who had a respectable eight points.
Coming into the season, Seattle knew that more than one player would need to step up to fill the void left by the injured stars. Lloyd and Howard are the two obvious candidates to step up, and they both have done so. Lloyd has played at least 32 minutes in each of the first two games while Howard has led the team in scoring both games.
Acting head coach Gary Kloppenburg praised Howard for her play after game one. “She’s just all over the place. She’s such a complete player,” Kloppenburg said. Her play kept Seattle in the game against the Lynx, although the comeback ended up falling short.
That being said, the win last Saturday was an important one. The game was more than just a ceremony celebrating the 2018 team, presenting a banner and receiving championship rings. All of those things are important but what mattered most was getting an opening win.
Natasha Howard thought the victory sent a message throughout the league. “Don’t doubt us,” Howard said. “Even though we don’t have two players due to injuries, just don’t doubt us.”
Not that Minnesota doubted the talent of Seattle on Wednesday night, but the Lynx went to show that Seattle won’t have an easy ride back to the WNBA Finals. The Lynx out-played the Storm in nearly every facet of the game, beating the defending champs 72-61.
The Lynx had a balanced attack as four players scored 10 or more points. Seattle dug a hole early by getting outscored 22-9 in the first quarter. What stuck out most was Seattle’s inability to hit a 3 pointer, as the Storm went just 2-15 shooting beyond the arc.
Bird and Stewart were two staples of consistency for the Storm a season ago, and they would have been helpful in this game. Seattle shot a mere 36.4 percent from the floor and had just Lloyd and Howard in double digit scoring.
While Bird might not be helping the team on the court, her presence on the team has not completely disappeared. Storm guard Jordin Canada said, “It’s nice having Sue Bird and Noelle Quinn on the sidelines and continuing to talk to us and tell us the things they see on the floor.”
Bird can provide insight to her teammates with the information she sees from her sideline Obviously she would be preferred on the court along with Stewart, but insight from these players should never be overlooked.
Bird’s presence also speaks to the commitment level of every player on this Seattle team. They know a lot of people are doubting the defending champions, and that can bring a team together. While it might not be as easy a path as last year, the path is still there for this team to make it back to the Finals.
Games like Wednesday will happen, adjustments will need to be made. Don’t be shocked to see the Storm making more noise as the season progresses. A team that is doubted can cause major damage. Even a team that is down a MVP.