Breanna Stewart decided this offseason that she wanted a home base given the nomadic nature of her pro basketball career.
After making the decision to buy her own place and have Seattle be that stable place, there was no question who Stewart was going to lean on for some help getting settled.
“It was fun. It’s nice when you’re not the one buying,” Storm teammate Sue Bird said. “It was cool. I was glad I could help.”
In 2016, there was no break for Stewart. She went directly from winning a national title at UConn, to the WNBA, to the Olympics, to rejoining the Storm after the Olympics break and making the WNBA playoffs. Finally, there was an overseas stint in China.
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As her second WNBA season is about to begin, there are some questions about Stewart’s health after she sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee while playing in China over the winter.
The injury capped an exhausting year. The injury was deemed minor and allowed her to take some extra time off.
“Last year at times it felt like my hair was on fire. Always going all over the place and doing different types of things,” Stewart said. “Going overseas and coming back and having that time to relax, figure out what day it was, what month it is and relax my body, my mind and then come back here.”
The No. 1 overall draft pick of 2016 and the WNBA rookie of the year will have more focus on her when the Storm begins the 2017 season Saturday at Los Angeles. Some of that arises from expectations, with Seattle projected to be a playoff contender.
But there are questions about Stewart’s knee after she missed both of Seattle’s preseason games. The Storm needs Stewart fully healthy if it wants to keep taking steps toward becoming an elite team again.
Stewart’s transition to the pro game was made easier by having Bird around. Though they are a generation apart, they attended the same college and they were picked No. 1 by the Storm.
But they are at different stages of their careers. Bird remains a top point guard, but is 36 and needed minor knee surgery before the Storm opened training camp.
Bird may not be ready for the season opener. The contract she signed with Seattle last year has no official end date, but it’s clear her career is in its latter stages.
If the Storm becomes a dominant franchise again, it will be largely because of Stewart and Jewell Loyd, a fellow No. 1 overall draft pick. Fans saw a glimpse of the potential last year when the Storm won seven of its final 10 games following the Olympics to reach the postseason, where Seattle was bounced by Atlanta.
Along with Bird, Loyd and Stewart, the Storm returns Crystal Langhorne, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Alysha Clark. The most important addition could be post Carolyn Swords, who should be able to take some of defensive focus on the interior away from Stewart.
“She’s going to be amazing,” Stewart said. “Just to have another post that’s able to be a legit five and just help us, especially defensively, containing some of the bigger players in the league and then offensively cleaning up everything around the paint.”
2016: 16-18, seventh place; lost to Atlanta in first round of playoffs.
COACH: Jenny Boucek, third season.
POWER POLL RANKING: Fifth.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Sue Bird (12.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.8 apg), G Jewell Loyd (16.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.4 apg), F Breanna Stewart (18.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.4 apg), F Alysha Clark (9.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.9 apg), F/C Crystal Langhorne (9.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 apg).
OUTLOOK: Stewart had a strong rookie season, helping the Storm reach the playoffs. The team will look to build on that postseason berth. The Storm played well down the stretch in 2016, winning seven of its final 10 regular-season games after the Olympic break. The team had a relatively quiet offseason, but did add veteran post Carolyn Swords from New York, which gives Seattle another solid defender.