Calling the weather in Vail, Colo. beautiful, Storm All-Star Sue Bird sounded upbeat after undergoing successful right hip surgery on Tuesday. Dr. Marc Philippon handled the procedure at the Steadman Clinic, the same place and doctor who repaired Lauren Jackson’s left hip in June.
Bird originally thought she’d need the procedure on her left hip, too. But said in a phone conversation Wednesday evening that another examination by Philippon showed it wasn’t the worse of the two hips. She was instead injected with a lubricant to help mobility and operated on her right hip to repair an actual labrum tear.
“It’s one of those things where you cross that bridge when you get there,” said Bird of ever needing surgery on the left hip in the future. “I much more lucky than Lauren was in that the season is not going on right now and I’m trying to race back to try and help the team. I have the time, so I’m definitely going to use that time. I’m not in any kind of rush other than I want to be ready when I go to Russia.
“The doctor really talked to me and said he thinks come early December, I’ll be ready to go. That will even give me extra time to get into shape and what not. That’s my time frame, but I have to say, I feel pretty good so far. The non-weight-barring stuff kind of sucks, but other than that, it’s not so bad.”
Like Jackson, Bird was immediately placed on a stationary bike as part of initial post-surgery rehab. Bird will be on crutches for about two weeks and said she’s going to complete her rehabilitation at the University of Connecticut because of its proximity to her native New York and her familiarity with staff, leading the Huskies to an undefeated season and NCAA title in 2002.
She’s missing an exhibition tour through Europe with USA Basketball, however. It’s one of the few times before the 2012 London Games this summer that the team has to train together. Bird, the expected starting point guard, called national team coach Geno Aureimma among other key staff members before opting for surgery.
“They’ve been totally understanding,” said Bird, a two-time gold medalist. “For me to do the surgery is to be healthy for Russia, for the WNBA and, of course, for the Olympics. So, they were totally understanding and really wishing me the best and they’ve been supportive and checking in on me.”
Storm teammate Swin Cash was one of the USA Basketball members checking in on Bird, also letting fans know about the training in Italy, which began on Tuesday. USA Basketball plays its first game against Famila Schio at 9 a.m. PST on Friday in Naples.
Bird isn’t overly concerned by missing training. The national team will be named in the spring. The basketball portion of the Games is July 28-Aug. 12, 2012, the WNBA expected to announce this week when it’ll “go dark” to give Americans and other international players time to train for the Olympics. Jackson, a native Australian, is among several players who won’t play in the opening half of the WNBA season, however.
“(I’m) missing something, everyone is going through this two weeks together and you’re not apart of it,” said Bird, who helped USA Basketball qualify for the Olympics by winning the FIBA World Championships last fall. “But I feel like I’ve been part of the national team long enough. I know all the women on the team, I know the coaches, I know the support staff. It’s a very comfortable situation where I feel like I could join them come this summer and not feel like I’ve missed a beat.”
And now she’ll have healthier hips to play on, sharing last week that she was diagnosed with a slight labral tear in November 2010. It hurt her defense and caused some missed practices, but Bird averaged 33 minutes in 34 regular season games, playing 20 without Jackson and averaging a career-best 14.7 points this summer.
“I’m very happy,” said Bird, who departs in January to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg. “The hip is interesting thing. What I’ve learned is you really don’t know what the problem is until you go in. I know with Lauren’s case, they knew it was torn and then they got in there and they saw it was really torn. More so than they saw on the MRI. So, for (Dr. Philippon) to be happy how things turned out obviously makes me really happy.”
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm PG Sue Bird in her USA Basketball uniform by The Associated Press