SEATTLE- Breanna Stewart decided this offseason that she wanted a home base even given the nomadic nature of her professional basketball career.
After making the decision to buy her own place and have Seattle be that stable place, there was no question who Stewart was going to lean on for some help getting settled.
“It was fun. It's nice when you're not the one buying,” Seattle teammate Sue Bird said. “It was cool. I was glad I could help.”
In 2016, there was no break for Stewart. She went directly from winning a national title at UConn, to the WNBA, to the Olympics, to rejoining the Storm after the Olympic break and making the WNBA playoffs. Finally, there was an overseas stint in China.
As her second WNBA season is about to begin, there are some questions about Stewart's health after she sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee while playing in China over the winter. It was the capper to an exhausting year and, while no one wanted Stewart to suffer an injury, it was deemed minor and allowed her to take some extra time off.
“Last year at times it felt like my hair was on fire. Always going all over the place and doing different types of things,” Stewart said. “Going overseas and coming back and having that time to relax, figure out what day it was, what month it is and relax my body, my mind and then come back here.”
If being the No. 1-overall pick and WNBA rookie of the year didn't put enough attention on Stewart, she'll have even more focus on her when the Storm begins the season Saturday at Los Angeles. Some of that arises from expectations, with Seattle projected to be a playoff contender. But there are also questions about her knee after she missed both of Seattle's preseason games, and the Storm needs Stewart fully healthy if it wants to keep taking steps toward becoming an elite team again.
Stewart's transition to the professional game was made easier by having Bird around. The duo will always be linked, even if they are a generation apart, because they both attended the same college and because they were both picked No. 1 by the Storm.
But they are at different stages of their professional careers. Bird is still a top point guard, but is also 36 and needed minor knee surgery before the Storm opened training camp. She may not be ready for the season opener. The contract she signed with Seattle last year has no official end date, but it's clear her career is in its latter stages.
If Seattle becomes a dominant franchise again, it will be largely because of Stewart and fellow No. 1-overall draft pick Jewell Loyd. Fans saw a glimpse of the potential last year when the Storm won seven of their final 10 games following the Olympics to reach the postseason, where they were bounced by Atlanta.
Along with Bird, Loyd and Stewart, the Storm return the majority of the core from last season, including Crystal Langhorne, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Alysha Clark. The most important addition could be post Carolyn Swords, who should be able to take some of defensive focus on the interior away from Stewart.
“She's going to be amazing,” Stewart said. “Just to have another post that's able to be a legit five and just help us, especially defensively containing some of the bigger players in the league and then offensively cleaning up everything around the paint.”