Thanks to a nod Wednesday from WNBA president Laurel Richie, Storm PG Sue Bird will travel to the desert to participate in the league’s All-Star game. Bird, a 13-year veteran, was Richie’s injury replacement selection for Minnesota G Seimone Augustus (knee).
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Bird said via phone Wednesday evening. She needs to be in Phoenix by Friday to be part of the festivities at US Airways Center. The game airs Saturday at 12:30pm (PT) on ESPN.
“I don’t think I’ve had one of my better years, it’s safe to say, (and) our team has had an up-and-down season,” said Bird of why she doubted being named. “So, I planned on not being there but it would have been weird. I was going to hang out with some of my friends here (Seattle) and enjoy the weather because it’s been unbelievably beautiful. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to travel. We’ve been traveling so friggin’ much.”
Bird is making her eighth All-Star appearance – every season the WNBA has held a game since she was drafted No. 1 overall in 2002. But for the previous seven, she was the top vote-getter among fan balloting and started in the midsummer classic. In 2007 she received the most votes overall, a WNBA-record 128,838.
The 2013 season was Bird’s first missed due to injury (knee). In her return, Bird struggled to regain her WNBA game-shape early and floundered along with the Storm.
Seattle (9-15) is entering the break having lost five of its past seven games. Bird became the first WNBA player to accumulate more than 4,000 career points and 2,000 career assists this season, but is averaging 10.6 points on a career-low 38.7 percent shooting from the field. She’s also averaging a career-low 4.3 assists.
The combination may have led to Bird’s lack of fan votes and not being voted in by Western Conference coaches, who pick the All-Star reserves.
“The players that are there are very deserving, so I don’t feel slighted in anyway,” Bird said. “Now that I do have the chance to go, maybe I’ll enjoy it even more so because obviously this doesn’t last forever. You want to have fun with it while you can.”
Richie also named Washington PG Ivory Latta as an injury replacement for the Eastern All-Stars. Chicago F Elena Delle Donne is unable to participate due to treating a flare-up from Lyme disease.
Bird’s Western Conference is 8-3 all-time in the game. Her appearance means the Storm continues its streak of having an All-Star participant since Lauren Jackson was drafted No. 1 overall in 2001.
Bird and Latta, who’s making her second appearance, also ensures all 12 WNBA teams have a representative playing this weekend.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s a situation where there’s another player who can’t participate,” Bird said. “But it’s always a fun experience to be an All-Star. I feel lucky that I’ll be able to be there again.”
Now Bird will be able to attend an event hosted by BFF Diana Taurasi, who’s making her seventh appearance as a Phoenix All-Star. The game circling around her former UConn teammate’s WNBA city is reminiscent of when the game was held in Bird’s native New York in 2006.
“All of my family and all of my friends, everybody came out for it,” Bird, 33, said. “I had a party afterward. It was awesome…this one, because it’s far, they can just watch on TV.”