With the Las Vegas Aces’ 3-1 2022 WNBA semifinals victory over the Seattle Storm, it of course denotes the closure of the soon-to-be Hall of Fame career of one Sue Bird.
But – is it also the end of the current Storm era?
The Storm franchise has been defined by the four WNBA championships it has won throughout its history. It like all franchises goes through its fair share of ups and downs but given the magnitude of what Seattle could experience as it begins its offseason, one wonders what the 2023 rendition of the Storm could resemble.
In addition to last night being the end of Bird’s career, it was also the end of Briann January’s career as a WNBA player. Her career spanned several teams – including the Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, Connecticut Sun and the Storm. This included winning a championship on the Tamika Catchings-led Fever in 2012.
This current iteration of the Storm has been defined primarily by three players – Bird, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.In 2015, the Storm drafted Loyd first overall and Stewie was drafted first overall the following season.
Seattle’s struggles following its 2010 championship eventually laid the groundwork for the Storm to be able land on those back-to-back No. 1 overall selections. The rest was history as the 2018 and 2020 Finals told us.
If Stewart did not injure herself overseas prior to the 2019 season, we could be talking about a Storm franchise that would have won three consecutive championships. After all – even the 2019 season where the Storm were sans Stewart for the season, Seattle still were one victory shy of the WNBA semifinals.
Prior to the start of the 2022 season, both Stewart and Loyd signed free agent deals. Stewart’s was for one season and Loyd’s was for two years. During the course of the season, Seattle signed Tina Charles to a contract for the remainder of the season after she departed from a Phoenix Mercury team that dealt with a high level of adversity this season because of the ongoing saga involving Brittney Griner.
Charles has also been the textbook definition of “rent-a-player” since her career with the New York Liberty concluded as her hometown franchise’s all-time leading scorer. All in an effort to capture her first ring, Charles has worn the uniforms of the Washington Mystics, Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm – all since last season.
About those Liberty…
Once the buzzer hit triple zeroes on the Aces-Storm game, Own The Crown Twitter was abuzz with already envisioning Stewie in a black, seafoam and copper No. 30 Liberty uniform. It may make sense. After all – she did have a meeting with the Liberty governors in Joe and Clara Wu Tsai over the offseason before re-upping for one more season in the Emerald City.
In addition, Stewart is a native of New York State – more specifically from Syracuse. With her having accomplished everything there is to accomplish in a green and gold Storm uniform, a return to the Empire State may be in the cards in what would be a major step for the Liberty in its quest for the first WNBA championship in the history of the Original Eight team.
Of course, getting a player the caliber of a Breanna Stewart will be a major cap hit – meaning the Liberty may have to clear a lot of cap space in order to make room for her. But if it is one thing we know about the Tsai family is it wants a championship for the Liberty. Signing a player the caliber of a Stewart will go a long way towards that.
The question that may be on the mind of Stewart and her inner circle is if the Liberty have done enough this past season to make the team attractive enough to sign with long term. New York finished the season with a record of 16-20. That was good enough for the No. 7 seed in the playoffs and the team, with Sandy Brondello in her first season at the helm at Atlantic and Flatbush, claimed its first victory in the playoffs since the 2015 season.
One would think that the Liberty have done just enough for the former league MVP and two-time champion to give Barclays Center the curious eye – but only time will tell once the free agent period commences.
For all of the talk about how teams like the Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx may either be rebuilding or on the verge of a rebuild, the Storm may be nearing a rebuild as well. Western Washington state has lots of trees, but Birds, Stewies and Loyds simply do not grow on them.