Storm PG Sue Bird announced this week she’ll undergo left knee surgery to remove a cyst beneath her knee cap. The procedure is set for May 9 and will cause the All-Star to miss the 2013 WNBA season. Bird already had surgery on her left hip in October 2012.
Bird, 32, will return to Seattle shortly after surgery to complete rehabilitation and be part of the team. Her guaranteed base salary of $107,500 counts toward the Storm’s maximum $913,000 salary cap. Brian Agler, the Storm’s general manager and coach, signed veteran Temeka Johnson to help fill Bird’s position while returning G Tanisha Wright can also handle running the offense.
But Seattle is also without three-time MVP Lauren Jackson (hamstring) and her intended fill-in Ann Wauters (family), whose contracts do not count against the cap. It’s the first time since the Storm’s inception in 2000 that it played without Jackson or Bird, back-to-back No. 1 overall draft picks in 2001 and 2002.
Bird communicated via her agent about needing to undergo surgery. Here are her Q&A responses.
Q: Are you still in Russia traveling with UMMC Ekaterinburg playing right now?
Bird: Yes, right now I’m in Russia helping my team prepare for the EuroLeague final 8. As I’m sure you know I’m not playing in that but will resume play once the Russian League starts up again.
Q: Lauren mentioned speaking with you before she opted to have surgery, did you share your situation with her?
Bird: Once I knew surgery was the definite option Lauren was one of the first people I told.
Q: Were you concerned even playing in Russia given the knee described as a grave condition?
Bird: My initial thoughts were that I wanted to honor my commitment to my team here in Ekaterinburg while going through the process of figuring things out. My doctor showed no concern when it came to playing in the short term so it’s not something I worried about either.
Q: Have you selected a doctor/date/place for initial rehab?
Bird: Yes, Dr. Michael Joyce will perform the surgery on May 9th. I will most likely stay on the east coast for the early stages of rehab because I will be non-weight bearing for the first 6 weeks, but I do plan on getting out to Seattle as soon as possible.
Q: It’s amazing all you do considering three surgeries in two years, what does that say about you?
Bird: I don’t think it says too much because this is just what comes with the territory as a women’s professional basketball player these days. You go from season to season with some national team in between, and just try your best to be as healthy as possible at all times. I was lucky in that I learned to take care of my body at an early age but unfortunately some things you have no control over. Believe when I say, I would much rather not be having these surgeries, but you have to play the hand your dealt and if it means I can keep playing for the next 4 or 5 years so be it. It could be easy to let this kind of thing get you down so I just try to approach it all with a positive attitude.
Q: Does this procedure and what others endure emphasize the point of needing a financial resolution to offer players more monetary value to equal your physical investment, particularly since most play year-round?
Bird: Not really. I play in the WNBA because it’s the best competition in the world and because I love playing in front of our US fans. I also enjoy playing in Europe and don’t ever really compare the two or make choices based on any comparison. My decision to have surgery at the end of this European season is simply a reflection of the time it took to weight [sic] treatment options and my desire to give all that I can to each time I play for. Like I said, I want to honor any commitment I make.
Q: Did any of the doctors tell you this could have stemmed from overcompensating because of your hip, knee, (back?) injuries?
Bird: I’m not really sure if I can answer this question and it would probably be best for a Doctor to do it. From what I’ve been told, though, I’ve obviously had a lot happen in that left knee and it’s likely this cyst is a result of that. Never has it been said that my hips, or back or anything else for that matter, played a role.
Q: I believe I have all of the dates of your surgeries correct but do you mind listing them for me?
Bird: Surgeries are as follow:
12/98 – Left knee ACL reconstruction and Lateral Meniscal removal
9/03 – Left knee Microfracture
7/07 – Left knee scope
9/11 – Right hip Labrum repair
10/12 – Left hip Labrum repair with Microfracture
Throw in three Nasal Bone surgeries (2004, 2005, 2012) and there’s my resume.
Q: Is there any positive to the situation?
Bird: I’m not sure there are any positives to surgery except that I won’t have to worry about my knee in the future. But just to humor your question, I think opportunity in this league can be the key to a players success. Just like you saw Alysha Clark rise to the occasion last year when we had all those injuries, this too might give some players more opportunity. Even though I can’t be out there with the team I definitely look forward to watching them grow and I hope to help in any way I can.
Q: What is the Storm outlook to you? Tanisha always comments about not liking to play PG.
Bird: As usual, I think the Storm has done a great job in free agency and I see great things happening this season. We have a good mix of players and a lot of experience and leadership. As far as T goes, I think at this point she has gotten more comfortable running the point and with the way our offense runs she can still utilize what makes her effective from that spot. She’s also lucky Brian got Tameka Johnson [sic] signed. I’m half kidding, but the truth is Tameka [sic] is a great point guard and so T won’t have to worry too much about it.
Q: Are you able to keep up with UW?
Bird: Because of (Washington assistant coach and good friend) Adia (Barnes), I definitely try to keep up with UW. I know by finishing 5th in the Pac-12 they surprised everyone, which hopefully gets a lot of people’s attention. I’m pretty sure they are a bubble team, but even if they don’t make it to the NCAA tournament this year, with it only being Kevin McGuff’s second year, I think this seasons [sic] success is a sign of good things to come.