In a season full of injuries for the Storm, Seattle lost yet another star Tuesday night. On an easy break away layup, Jewell Loyd landed awkwardly on her right ankle which forced her out of the game. She looked to be in a great deal of pain and returned to the bench later in the game via the support of crutches. The team announced it is a right ankle sprain and said she’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks.
She is out for the foreseeable future, which means the Storm lose their second best player. Her and Natasha Howard have kept Seattle afloat in the early going. Howard has already earned a player of the week honor and is arguably the league’s MVP to this point of the year. Loyd is the only player besides Howard who has started in each of the team’s 12 games to date. That streak will end on Friday when Loyd will sit due to the ankle injury.
The pair are the only players on the team averaging double digits scoring with Howard averaging 18.9 points per game and Loyd just a tick behind at 15.8. With these two at the helm, the Storm were holding their own at a 7-4 mark going into Friday’s game against Vegas.
The intriguing matchup pinned the defending champs against the preseason favorites. Despite the offensive star power, Seattle fell in Vegas 60-56 in a highly defensive game. The difference in the game came at the charity stripe. The Aces shot 10-13, while Seattle made just 5-10 free throws. The Storm couldn’t find the basket until the 6:25 mark in the first quarter. Ironically, Loyd made the team’s first bucket on the play that cost her the rest of the game.
The cold start followed the Storm through the rest of the game. The team scored fewer than 60 points and shot worse than 32 percent for the first since 2015. A team that is down Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and now Jewell Loyd would seem like a team with limited options and potential. That may ring true in the rest of the league. But if there’s a team that can overcome these adversities, its’ the Storm.
Seattle’s deep bench gives the Storm one reason to believe in that statement. Every time someone has gone down, another player has stepped up. Howard has elevated her play since Stewart’s exit and it was Loyd increasing her production in light of Sue Bird not playing. In addition, Jordin Canada played quality minutes before going down with her own injury. She needs to step up even more now with Loyd getting hurt. Sami Whitcomb and Shavonte Zellous will also need to step up. Zellous helped the Storm on Tuesday night with 11 points off the bench. But Canada and Whitcomb supply the long term options because they will likely get the bulk of Loyd’s opportunities.
Another reason this team can withstand these obstacles is their mental toughness. Every team says they have mental toughness. But it truly means something when an opposing coach, especially one with multiple championships, recognizes it.
“They (the Storm) are an experienced basketball team,” said Bill Laimbeer after the Storm fell to the Aces. “Even though they are short handed they still know each other very well, they are going to go run their stuff.”
Head Coach Dan Hughes’s return is another reason for hope in Seattle. He retook control of head coaching duties on Friday, June 21 when the Storm beat the LA Sparks 65-61. While interim coach Gary Kloppenburg did a fine job leading Seattle to start the season, Hughes is back at the helm of a team he lead to the championship a year ago.
In the first Winsidr Power Rankings, Seattle was voted as the 4th best team in the league. The return of Hughes should boost this team’s performance. Hughes and these players share a special bond after hoisting the championship trophy a season ago. The players should play with more confidence and moral with his return.
“It’s really special having Dan back,” Sami Whitcomb said. “He obviously drives what we do on the court. So moving forward, it will be great to have his presence with the group!”
The deep Seattle bench, the team’s mental toughness and Hughes’ return are three reasons to believe in Seattle going forward. Hopefully, it will allow the team to weather the storm and continue to make noise this season.