Breanna Stewart and the Seattle Storm never really got a chance to defend their 2018 championship because of key injuries.
If the team can stay healthy next year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Storm contend for a third championship in four years and become the first team to win consecutive titles since the 2001-02 Los Angeles Sparks.
“I don’t know if any of us are thinking that way,” Stewart said after the Storm completed a three-game sweep of the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday night by setting a WNBA Finals record with a 33-point win.
“We have a solid group around us. What we did in 2018, to get stung by injuries in 2019 and not have everyone back in 2020 and still be playing at the same level if not better is motivating for us.”
Stewart returned from an Achilles' tendon injury that sidelined her in 2019 as a better player. The 26-year-old won a second WNBA Finals MVP as a unanimous choice and was nearly unstoppable in the championship round. She definitely had a lot of help, including from Jewell Loyd. The 27-year-old guard really improved this year and the pair, along with Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard provide a very strong core for the Storm.
They'd love to have Sue Bird alongside again for another run. Bird, who turns 40 next week, has been a part of all four of the Storm championships during three decades. She said she hadn't thought about whether she'll come back next year.
If Bird is healthy, it would be hard to see her not come back and give it another go, especially with the Tokyo Olympics in play. She could become a five-time Olympic gold medalist — something never done in women's basketball.
“Interestingly enough, it’s never a day of decision. I just kind of start working out and see how I feel,” said Bird, who averaged 11 assists in the WNBA Finals. “I wish I could give you more. If the way I feel right now, if I go through my offseason and continue to build on that in a good way, I don’t see why I won’t be playing next summer.”
The Storm already joined the Minnesota Lynx and Houston Comets as the only franchises with four WNBA championships. A fifth would be unprecedented.
“Minnesota set that mark high. They are a team that won four in six or seven years,” Bird said. “Might have some work to do to get up there."
It won't be easy for the Storm. Las Vegas should get a boost from the return of Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum. Washington, the 2019 champion, was missing four of its five starters — including Elena Delle Donne — from that team this season.
Los Angeles, Minnesota and Connecticut also should be contenders as they too will get players back who sat out this season.
It’s way too early to know when or where next season will be played.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, who was instrumental in getting this year to even happen during the coronavirus pandemic, said the league was planning for various scenarios for next year. A lot will be determined by what happens with COVID-19.
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