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After shocking end to season, future uncertain for Seattle Storm
They may have won it all in 2010, but this year the Seattle Storm reverted back to their old habit of exiting the playoffs in the first round. They've done it six out of the last seven years.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says injuries and exhaustion were big factors.
Sue Bird played with pain
In addition to Storm star Lauren Jackson missing much of the regular season to recover from hip surgery, there's word that fellow star Sue Bird played all season with a hip injury.
Jayda Evans with The Seattle Times reports Bird admitted this week she has a slight tear in one hip labrum and is awaiting imaging on the other hip, which could show a similar injury. She may need surgery.
Jackson's triumphant return fell short
Lauren Jackson recovered from HER hip surgery in time to help get the Storm to the first round of the playoffs. But by Game 3 Monday night, Art says it was clear that three games in five days had taken its toll.
Despite that, Jackson, Bird and the rest of the Storm were confident they would defeat the Phoenix Mercury and move on to the second round of the playoffs. They had beaten Phoenix in 11 of 13 games over the past two years. But Phoenix won the decisive Game 3 Monday night at KeyArena 77-75 with a jump shot in the final second, leaving many Storm players – including Bird – with stunned looks on their faces.
Team leaders have tough job
Art says a lot is riding on the shoulders of Jackson and Bird.
"It's really a two-woman team in many ways. Both of them play a very hectic, intense international schedule besides the WNBA because they can make more money playing internationally than they can playing domestically. So, I don't blame them for pursuing their careers as best they can. It's just there are consequences to the body when you're playing as much ball as those two."
Art has cited the grueling, year-round schedules kept by Jackson and Bird for the Storm exiting the playoffs in the first round in past years.
Jackson opts for Olympics
Another question mark is how the Storm will handle being without Jackson for at least the first half of next season. She's committed to playing for her native Australia in the 2012 Olympics in London. That means she won't be available to play for the Storm until August.
Sue Bird plans to play for the same Russian team, Moscow Spartak, starting in January – providing she's healthy. But she will be back in time for the start of the WNBA season.
2012 a transition year?
Art says, in addition to Bird and Jackson dealing with tough schedules and injuries, the Storm also will not have a first-round draft pick next year.
"There is a lot of change that could happen in this organization. Brian Agler, the coach, knows he has to look to the future because he won't have (Bird and Jackson) forever. And this may be a transition year if they can pull it off."
You can read more about the Storm and find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.
Sports with Art Thiel