Just when it seemed as if the Storm had settled into a long-awaited stretch of normalcy as it pertains to their ever-changing lineups and rotations, star point guard Sue Bird and center Mercedes Russell returned to the injured list.
Hours before Tuesday’s road game against the Minnesota Lynx, Seattle announced Bird is out due to a non-COVID illness and Russell is unavailable because of a non-basketball injury.
“There’s no normal for us so far this season,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “With Sue being out, that means [Briann January] will start at the point and just being creative again with our post rotations.
“[Jantel Lavender] is going to be big rotational piece today. … We’ve been through this before. Our group has shown to be resilient in these times. It’s always next woman up mentality.”
The short-handed Storm will have just nine players Tuesday, but could add a player on a hardship contract because it’s not immediately known if Russell will be out long term.
The fifth-year center, who missed the first seven games due to the same unspecified injury, has labored during her return while averaging 2.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 10:44 minutes off the bench in the five games.
On Sunday, Russell logged just 8½ minutes — her fewest this season — and tallied just two points and one rebound during an 84-79 win at Dallas.
Quinn was unsure if Russell suffered a setback and hesitant to speculate on her return
“She’s back home in Seattle and getting evaluated by our team doctors,” Quinn said. “I’m just going to wait until we get an update.”
When asked about Bird, Quinn said, “Hopefully, we’ll have Sue back in the mix soon.”
Earlier this season, Bird missed three games while in the WNBA’s health and safety protocols. She’s played in four games since recovering from what she described as mild COVID symptoms.
Bird, who is vying for a 13th WNBA All-Star Game appearance, is third in the league while averaging 6.6 assists to go along with 7.8 points per game in 10 starts.
The Storm (8-5) is 3-1 with its full complement of 11 players and has a three-game winning streak heading into their matchup against the Lynx (3-11), which have lost three straight.
Seattle is halfway through a five-game road trip, which began with a pair of wins in Dallas, a Friday stop in Connecticut and wraps up Sunday in New York.