An earlier version of this story had an incorrect date for Lauren Jackson's appearance at the Bellevue Square Starbucks. She will be there 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, not Friday.
Sue Bird fired off an e-mail to her coach in February.
She was spending snowy nights in Russia, wrestling with thoughts about the Storm's finish in the 2005 season. After winning the championship the previous summer, Seattle had been booted from the playoffs by the Houston Comets.
Losing the best-of-three series 2-1 despite winning the opening game left a worse taste in Bird's mouth than some of the Russian food she had to force down.
Bird wanted answers. She knew she played hot potato with teammate Iziane Castro Marques during the series, neither seemingly wanting to shoot. Bird averaged 9 points and 4.3 assists in the postseason, below her season averages of 12.1 and 5.9.
"If you were to rewind to after that first game, we were all feeling really good about ourselves," Bird said. "But those two games definitely stay with me. And it doesn't have to show up in a stat sheet, but I just wanted to know what I needed to do. So, I just e-mailed [coach Anne Donovan] and was like, 'Hey, I've been thinking a lot, tell me what you want.' The first thing she said was to be more aggressive."
Bird, the Storm's co-captain, has returned from Russia after winning a championship with Dynamo Moscow, and participated in training camp Thursday. She spent Wednesday evening reviewing the new twists to the Storm's offense and defense with assistant coach Heidi VanDerveer.
Donovan wants more scoring from the point guard, which should open up play for everyone in the starting lineup. It will also alleviate the pressure placed on forward Lauren Jackson to carry the team on a shin with hairline fractures.
The Storm averaged a franchise-best 73.5 points last season. Bird looking to score, coupled with the shortened 24-second clock, should increase that average.
"For us to be a better team, Sue has to constantly be a threat," Donovan said. "And she is, if she's aggressive. That will keep everybody else honest. Sue is a great point guard and she sees the strengths we have in Lauren and Betty [Lennox] and she's going to recognize it in [Wendy] Palmer. But she's going to have to stay aggressive in order for us to be really good."
There could be a downside to the point guard looking to score, however. Some may remember last season when Bird and Lennox argued on the bench during a June loss at Connecticut. Bird made an open layin with Lennox charging down the court. Bird didn't pass and it seemed to spark a feud that led to a wild season full of huge highs and cavernous lows.
But Bird remembers it differently.
"I don't think that was about, 'Oh, I didn't get to shoot the ball,' " she said. "It was frustration, and immediately after the game we talked about it."
Donovan added: "There was so much pressure on that game, [and] we had not played well in Connecticut, so tensions were high. But it's just that right now — and I know everything is going well and when we're tested is when things don't go well — but I just have a different feel for us in camp. I think we're a lot calmer, there's a peacefulness about us where we all understand."
After treading through a week of camp where at one point Lennox and guard Tanisha Wright were the only returning players practicing, Donovan cruised the training facility with a cup of coffee and a grin on Thursday. The head to her 20-14 team was back and ignoring exhaustion to run the offense.
And when Bird wasn't playing, she was directing the candidates to back her up or laughing with Jackson.
"She lifts Anne up," center Lindsay Taylor said of Bird's arrival. "Coach was smiling a little more and was more calm since Sue was here running the show. That was pretty noticeable."
For Bird, the noticeable component was Palmer's assertive leadership.
With the answers to what she needs to do this season and Palmer handling the veteran leadership aspect, Bird is confident last season's playoff experiences will be an anomaly.
"Last year we kind of got caught up in, 'Oh, there's so many new people and we're young and there's no veterans to lead us,' that type of stuff," Bird said. "We took care of one thing with Wendy, there's our veteran who wants to do whatever it takes to win. We have five starters back, we did great in the draft and added a lot of good free agents; I just think we're on our way. Now, it's up to us to put it together."
• The Storm cut forward Dalila Eshe and guard Tocarra Williams on Thursday.
• Castro Marques arrives today and could practice Saturday, but will not play in Sunday's exhibition game. Free agent Tiffani Johnson should arrive from Poland this weekend and also will not play.
• Jackson will be at the Bellevue Square Starbucks signing autographs from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.