Seattle continues its four-game road trip with a matchup at San Antonio on Friday. The game tips at 5pm PT on LiveAccess. It’s the first meeting of the season between the teams. The Storm won last year’s series 3-2 despite All-Star Sue Bird missing the season due to knee surgery.
With Bird back in the lineup, she’s closing in on a piece of WNBA history. She’s 15 assists from reaching 2,000 in her 12-year career. She’s averaging 4.5 assists so far, dishing out a season-high 10 in a home win against Minnesota on June 6.
Bird, 33, likely won’t hit the mark until Sunday in Tulsa. Regardless, it’ll make her the first player in WNBA history to tally 2,000 assists and more than 4,000 points in their career. Bird will remain second to All-Star Ticha Penicheiro as the all-time leader in total assists (2,599).
Lynx PG Lindsay Whalen (1,769 assists) and Stars PG Becky Hammon (1,607) are next in line to achieve the feat, already surpassing the 4,000-points plateau. Hammon is playing her 16th season, however, so it’s more doubtful she joins Bird in the elite field.
OK, those are the fun numbers.
On the flip side, it’s good Bird is setting her teammates up for shots with precision because she hasn’t found hers since missing the 2013 season. Bird is shooting a career-low 29.2 percent from the field. Her signature clutch three-point shot? Hard to watch as she shoots a career-low 25.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Bird has noted she’s still adjusting to the pace of WNBA play. She shot 39.4 percent from the field in Russian domestic-league during the “offseason,” nearly all of those shots being three-pointers (46.6 percent).
But while the dimensions are similar, the 23 games were spread across seven months with a few other competitions mixed in. Seattle (4-7) has played its 11 games in one month. Eight of those games were on the road with two sets of back-to-backs.
Yeah, Bird has to get in WNBA-shape, but the Storm desperately needs her offense.
Seattle’s defense is strong. The problem is scoring late to close out wins. Bird and designated three-point shooter Jenna O’Hea (31.6 percent) are struggling while Shekinna Stricklen’s improved 40.5 percent three-point shooting comes with a risk because she’s still developing a consistent defensive focus.
San Antonio (4-5) mirrors Seattle in offensive woes. It shot 27.8 percent in a double-overtime loss to Phoenix in its last outing.
However, the Stars have had a week without games to work on its problems. The Storm hasn’t had a week of practice since training camp in May. And, of course, Bird missed majority of it due to play in Russia.
She’s has had a month to adjust to new teammates to setup assists to get their offense. Bird finding her own offense will make her pending career-assists record mean more than a historical benchmark.