Breanna Stewart is ready for the WNBA season
After missing the 2019 season healing from injury, Seattle's Breanna Stewart is ready to help the Storm return to form
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UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT/USA - July 20, 2018: Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) shoots as Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones (35) defends during a Seattle Storm vs Connecticut Sun WNBA basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
When we last saw Seattle Storm center Breanna Stewart, it was 2018 and she was capping off an incredible season with a championship celebration. Stewart became an all-star, an All-WNBA selection, and MVP of both the regular season and the WNBA Finals in just her third season.
It seemed that Los Angeles, Connecticut, Washngton, and Las Vegas were in an arms race with each other to keep up with Seattle.
That dynasty would have to wait a little longer. Aside from Sue Bird missing all of 2019 with a knee injury, Stewart ruptured her Achilles in mid-April, just weeks before the beginning of the season. Now, Stewart and Bird return to a team coming off an 18-16 season and are surrounded with the likes of Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd, Alysha Clark and more.
“We're big on routines,” Stewart said this week. “…we're in our circle, we're in our huddle. And [Coach] Klop is going to talk to the team before, and the first day, I was like, ‘I don't remember my spot’. Like, I don't remember where I used to stand because I haven't been here in two years.”
While Stewart and Bird do have a lot of familiar faces, this season is the first they’ll play with Ezi Magbegor, Epiphany Prince, and Morgan Tuck.
“It's almost like we have to take some steps backward to get everybody on the same page again because Sue and I haven't haven't been here, we added three new pieces and then we have to go forward a little bit,” said Stewart. “But I've been excited to be back around the team and it's also just different because I haven't been here, and getting used to really playing with these people because the last time I played with them is 2018.”
Of course, the 2020 season will be anything but familiar with the league sequestered in Bradenton. Adapting to playing after missing a season to serious injury would be difficult under any circumstances, but Stewart seems to be embracing the chaos. In fact, Stewart’s surroundings remind her of much earlier in her career.
“We're not really in the Olympic Village, but this is the same kind of feel that we have during the Olympics during college,” added Stewart. “Really. I think it's like college summer workouts because you see like, only the athletes are here, walking around on campus…I keep picturing it as like an AAU tournament you know you see the kids walking out with their backpacks and their flip flops and that type of thing and that's us.”
Opting out of this season, for any reason, under these circumstances would be understandable for any player. However, the opportunity to get back on the floor in what is “hopefully” the last time all 144 play the season in the same place was something Stewart didn’t want to pass up. The decision to play was also influenced by standing in solidarity with other players in the league.
“Obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion and there's kind of no wrong answer with opting in or out of a season,” Stewart said. “So continuing to get back with the WNBA as a basketball and be here in solidarity with the rest of the players. I mean, I wanted to play and that was the no-brainer for me.”
Stewart also feels the delayed start to the season allowed her to give her leg added rest. Before her season in Russia ended, Stewart said her minutes restriction was lifted and she played 36 minutes in one game. Had COVID-19 not shut down the season in March, Stewart said she was prepared to play up to the beginning of the WNBA season.
That’s good news for the Storm who are returning two future Hall of Famers to an already good roster. If Bird and Stewart are healthy, Seattle has as good of a shot as anyone this season.