Nothing lasts eternally. Not even the indomitable Sue Bird.
So with that in mind, Noelle Quinn is embracing the change as she enters her second season as Storm’s coach, which begins Sunday with the first day of training camp.
“There’s a newness and a freshness and a reset that’s happening,” she said. “There’s a lot of excitement.”
Granted, there was a lot of uncertainty in the offseason given that Seattle’s top four scorers and seven of the 12 players who finished the season on the roster were free agents.
Rather than launch a complete overhaul, the Storm re-signed Bird and Breanna Stewart to one-year deals while securing Jewell Loyd on a two-year contract and retaining Mercedes Russell on a three-year contract.
Seattle, which went 21-11 in the regular season and was rebounded in the WNBA second round, also brought in veteran defensive players Briann January and Gabby Williams on one-year, $144,000 contracts, which is further evidence that four-time WNBA champions are still winning-mode now.
“It feels like an invigoration,” Quinn said. “I don’t mean it’s Sue’s last year…but the old gang is back with Jewell and Stewie. Signing Cedes was important. I expect great things from Ezi (Magbegor) and strengthening our team by adding Bri and Gabby was important.
“So there’s a lot of good stuff going on that we’re excited about and it’s starting on Day 17.”
Here are some questions the Storm will have to answer during their two-week training camp, which includes shows against the Los Angeles Sparks at home on April 23-28 at the Phoenix Mercury.
Seattle opens the season at home on May 6 against the Minnesota Lynx.
What’s up with Stewie?
The last time Breanna Stewart was on the court for the Storm, the three-time WNBA All-Star forward limped off in the third quarter of a 105-71 win over the Washington Mystics on Sept. 7.
Stewart missed the next three games, including an 85-80 loss to Phoenix in the playoffs, with a left Achilles tendon injury. She underwent surgery on October 13 and rehabilitated during the WNBA offseason, which kept her out of play for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia.
The Storm expects Stewart, who signed a one-year, $228,094 contract, to be a full participant with no medical restrictions when training camp begins.
“There’s no slacking off from Stewie,” Quinn said. “She’ll be ready to rock and roll.”
Last season, the Storm were 20-8 under Stewart, not to mention a blowout win in the league opener of the Commissioners Cup.
Seattle was also 1-3 without its 2021 MVP candidate who led the team in scoring (20.3 points per game), rebounding (9.5), blocks (1.8) and steals (1.2). ).
After missing the 2019 season with a right Achilles tendon injury, Stewart averaged 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.6 steals while leading the Storm to a 2020 WNBA Championship and earning Finals MVP honors.
How soon will the new additions have an impact?
The Storm regressed defensively last year, prompting Seattle to acquire Williams and January to essentially replace Katie Samuelson and Jordin Canada.
However, Williams and January are playing in Hungary and are expected to miss the first 10 days of training camp, including the exhibition opener.
Kennedy Burke, who plays in Spain, is also expected to arrive late for training camp.
What are key position battles?
Seattle is returning four starters so there’s really only one vacancy in the starting lineup at small forward. Presumably, Stephanie Talbot, who started nine games last season, will fill the spot until Williams is ready to take over.
Keep an eye on the battle for the backup center spot, which seemed to go to free agent pick-up Jantel Lavender before the Storm took over highly decorated Elissa Cunane in the second round.
Assuming Storm guards Lavender or Cunane, it will be interesting to see who emerges in a battle for the final 11th spot on the roster between veteran guards Epiphanny Prince and Mikiah ‘Kiki’ Herbert Harrigan.
How will Quinn distribute coaching responsibilities?
Quinn revamped his coaching staff and hired longtime WNBA veteran Pokey Chatman to replace famed defensive guru Gary Kloppenburg, who led the Storm to the 2020 WNBA title.
The Storm also brought in Ebony Hoffman, who played 10 years in the WNBA and is making his coaching debut, to replace Ryan Webb, the team’s longest-serving assistant who had been with the franchise since 2015. .
In the past, Kloppenburg served as the de facto defensive coordinator who was the mastermind behind Seattle’s inventive trapping and harassment programs that led the league in the fewest points allowed in 2020 and 2019.
At least initially, Quinn wants the entire coaching staff to contribute to defensive and offensive game plans.
“It’s just a team effort at this point in the season,” she said. “Ask me in a few weeks and I might get a (different) answer.”
Can Seattle establish a blistering pace that will last?
Even with the WNBA’s oldest player leading the offense, it’s no secret that the Storm want to subdue their opponents.
In each of the past three seasons with the 41-year-old Bird, Seattle has ranked second in the WNBA in scoring with an average of 86.5 points.
Still, Quinn needs to figure out why the Storm spat in the final weeks of last season after going to a league-best 16-5 record during the Olympic break. Seattle was 5-6 in its last 11 games, not including the playoff loss.
“From day one, we have to establish who we want to be and how we want to play,” Quinn said. “We want to be in tune with the rhythm and that involves a type of conditioning that we need. … Last year we got a bit tired mentally and physically.
“From the jump it’s important that we understand how we’re going to play and that’s how we want to continue playing throughout the season while staying sharp at the end of the season. That includes minutes, rotations and lineups a bit more confident, so the experience and the reps are there and we’re fresh at the end of the year.