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Sue Bird expected to make her season debut for Storm on Sunday

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird looks on during a team basketball practice Monday, April 24, 2017, in Seattle. Following knee surgery earlier this month, Bird, 36 and the oldest active player in the WNBA, will out the start of the season. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird looks on during a team basketball practice Monday, April 24, 2017, in Seattle. Following knee surgery earlier this month, Bird, 36 and the oldest active player in the WNBA, will out the start of the season. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Later than she would have liked, but presumably right on time, Sue Bird makes a delayed and much-anticipated season debut Sunday for the Storm.

“The important thing when you have any type of injury is to listen to your body, and that’s what I’ve done … so I can say with a fair bit of confidence that I’m ready to play,” said the All-Star point guard who missed training camp, two exhibitions and two games last week while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on her left knee in April.

“I’m pretty much all the way back,” she said. “Now it’s about shaking the rust off. You want to get your knee right. You want to get your conditioning right and then you got to shake that rust off. So I was trying to do that as quickly as possible this week.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I feel really good. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t play this weekend.”

The Storm (1-1) hosts Washington (1-0) at 4 p.m. Sunday at KeyArena.

Without Bird and star forward Breanna Stewart, Seattle began the regular season with a 78-68 defeat at Los Angeles last week.

The next day, Stewart returned and made pivotal plays in the final minutes of an 87-82 win over Indiana in the home opener.

“I thought going 1-1 was not necessarily an accomplishment, but a success to start the season considering Stewie didn’t play Game 1 and I didn’t play both games,” Bird said. “Jewell (Loyd) stepped up huge. And hopefully we can just continue to build on that.”

Loyd, who tallied 25 points against L.A. and 27 on Indiana, has been an early delight for the Storm.

But turnovers plagued the team in both games. The Storm ranks second-worst in the 12-team WNBA while committing 22.5 turnovers per game – nearly six more than last year’s average.

Theoretically, Bird’s return will mean few turnovers.

“What you see when you have a high-turnover game is people doing things they don’t normally do,” said Bird, who led the WNBA with a 5.8-assist average in 2016. “People being in positions they’re not normally in.

“Hopefully I can balance that out a little bit. There’s no guarantees. I’ve been in games when we’ve turned the ball over that much. … A large part of my role on this team is just being an experienced point guard and someone who can bring a calming effect, hopefully.”

Since missing the 2013 season due to a knee injury, the 15-year veteran has been surprisingly durable despite being the oldest player in the league at 36.

Bird had missed just eight games in the previous three seasons.

Last year, she played in all 35 games for the Storm, including a playoff defeat. She also starred on the gold-medal-winning USA women’s national team in the Rio Olympics.

“It was a little weird,” Bird said when asked about sitting out the past two games. “It was very strange.”

The seven-day break between games allowed the Storm to partake in training-camp-style workouts and gave the team time to get reacquainted to its floor general.

“It’s great to have her back,” coach Jenny Boucek said. “She’s special. Even though she’s still getting some of the dust off so to speak, it changes the whole temperament of our team to have her out there.”


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