Just as tape recorders were about to click off, Storm PG Sue Bird admitted she’s played with a slight tear in her left labrum since November 2010. The 10-year vet is awaiting imaging on her right hip, which could show a similar injury.
While mirroring teammate Lauren Jackson, Bird’s isn’t acute and doesn’t require the same immediate surgery Jackson underwent in June. Bird, 30, said if the Storm was still in the playoffs, she’d still play.
But since Seattle was eliminated by Phoenix in the opening round, Bird has time to take care of her body. A procedure or rest will cause her to miss Team USA’s tour of Europe, however. Bird won’t join her offseason Russian team until January.
“People who were close to me know, but I joked that I must have set the bar really low defensively because people didn’t even notice,” Bird said of her injury slowing her defense this season. “‘Oh, she always gets beat, it’s normal!’ The hardest part was on defense, though, laterally moving. I can’t really stretch my legs out, that kind of thing.
“As an athlete, you definitely overcompensate and you figure out ways to avoid what hurts and I was able to do that. Did I have some discomfort? Yeah, but it didn’t hinder me in a real way. But when you have opportunities, especially as a women’s basketball player, to take care of things, you have to do it. I’m getting older and I don’t want things to linger.”
When diagnosed by her Connecticut physician in 2010, Bird was told there was nothing she could do to heal the injury. Surgery requires 8-12 weeks of rehabilitation.
Storm coach Brian Agler and Karen Bryant, the team’s president/CEO, said they knew of some problems. Agler said the co-captain never complains, so he didn’t know the severity outside of looking at her gait.
“She’s being dealing with hip issues the last couple of years and there have been times we’ve had to sit her out of practice,” Agler said. “She’s got a lot of things coming up here with her European contract, our seasons and the Olympics. I think she looks at it as, ‘I’m tired of dealing with this, now gives me an opportunity to take care of some things and get it fixed, if possible. She’s going to analyze the whole situation and make some decisions.”
The team spoke during exit interviews on Wednesday at its practice facility at Seattle Pacific University. Other news was Bird and G Tanisha Wright will be re-signed when free agency opens next year. Assistant coach Nancy Darsch will also be brought back and Bryant is working on extending Agler’s contract, which expires in 2012.
While legendary Virginia coach Debbie Ryan can’t be hired, Agler said he hoped she returned next season as a volunteer if she didn’t find another coaching position.