Dishin' it with Sue Bird
Storm star Sue Bird talks with The Seattle Times in an exclusive Q&A.
Q: Have you had time to let the end of the season set in?
Bird: When seasons end abruptly, things happen really fast. All of a sudden you're in planning mode. Pack your stuff, figure out your flight, figure out where you're going next. You don't really have a chance to just sit and think.
Q. Starting off next season without Lauren Jackson, is that going to be more challenging than normal?
Bird: It's hard to think about it because we don't really know what the roster is going to look like. You hope to keep the core group together. The fact that they know going in, that's the difference between last year and this year. I'm sure that's going to change things about how the owners and Brian (Agler) put things together.
I find it to be pretty amazing that we finished with the record that we did, not having Lauren for 20-some games. I don't know many teams who could lose their best player and do that. We went through a lot of ups and downs but look at that record. It kind of speaks for itself.
But it was a hard season. It was mentally, physically and emotionally difficult at times.
Q. How would you rank this season to the other seasons?
Bird: It was one of the more challenging seasons because of the cards that were dealt to us for such a long period of time. There are times during a season where you lose players for two weeks. In Lauren's case, in 2008 and '09, we lost her at the end. But it wasn't nearly as long as it was this year.
Q. Do injuries to teammates add more pressure on you?
Bird: It's just a lot more demanding when you lose a player on your team. On an 11-player roster, one player lost ... it makes warm-ups hard. Like layup lines because it's just 10 of you going around in circles. Everyone has to give a little more. It's never going to fall on just one player's shoulders.
Q. After 10 years, do you have a favorite memory of Seattle? On and off the court.
Bird: One of my favorite moments was when we lost to Houston in the playoffs, it was Game 3 at home and we were getting spanked. Nobody expected that and the fans still gave us a standing ovation at the end. And I'll always remember that. It's not necessarily my favorite moment because we lost. But just in terms of the support that they showed will forever be a memorable thing.
Off the court? I think just over time I've really fallen in love with the city and call it home. I'm super comfortable here. Just growing up here, and living a life here and feeling like it's home. I really enjoyed that.
Q. Do you think you'll stay in Seattle when your career is done?
Bird: You have to take a lot of things into account, like job. What's my next job going to be? Imagine going into coaching — I'm not saying I want to do that, but if I did — and I got a job in Nebraska. Obviously those things you can't control.
I miss my friends and family a lot. It's hard to be away from them. I've always said that if I could somehow uproot all of the people in my life who I like to be around and miss and move them here, it would be my perfect world.
Q. When Diana Taurasi fouled out, she had an outburst. What are your thoughts on that outburst?
Bird: With Diana, her mouth can sometimes get out of control the way she speaks to a ref. I've played with her a long time and I've seen it. And I think deep down she knows it.
I think it's easy for people to judge her. But what people don't really understand is the emotional investment you put into all of this. If I'm her coach or her teammate, I'd be mad at her for even putting herself in a situation to get her sixth foul. That to me is the problem.
But you have to understand she fouled out with six minutes (left to play), of course she's going to be upset. It's just an emotional reaction, and you don't always have control over that. It's like you're so passionate about something. If a referee makes a bad call, at times it can be hard to not be like, "WHAT?" right in their face because it's happening so fast and the emotions are running so high. It's not always the easiest thing to control. Now, with that being said, people clearly control it. And clearly that day Diana didn't. It's a thin line there. You have to be able to control it. It can be difficult at times. But I can certainly relate.
There's been times in Europe, when I felt like I was being done so wrong where after the game I was clenching my fist thinking, "Oh my god, I would love to punch that guy (the ref)." I would never do it, but you're just so mad.
Q. How do you handle it?
Bird: I have reactions at times. And I'm sure I've cursed on the court. I know for a fact that when we come into the huddles if I'm upset about something, the language is not always the best.
For the most part, I'm kind of an even-keel person. So I try to never get too high, because you never want to get too low, either. People always made fun of me last year during the playoffs because I'd hit those big shots and I'd be like, "cool." Of course I get excited inside and I'll replay it later and it's very exciting and this year I showed a little bit more emotion. But for the most part if I hit a big shot, I try not to go crazy and if I have a bad turnover, I try not to go in the opposite direction. It's just my DNA.
Q. Do you think athletes should be role models?
Bird: I do. I think whether they want to be or not, they just kind of are. And that's just the reality of the situation. I know Charles Barkley is famous saying he's not a role model. And even with saying that, some little kid is going to look up to him whether he likes it or not. For me, I've always felt like I don't try to be a role model, I just try to be myself. I just turned out in a way that I'm not doing bad things. I don't go out on the street and say, "Man, I really want to rob that store, but I won't because I'm a role model." I'm just not going to rob a store.
Q. Do you have any advice for kids that want to be pro basketball players? What tips would you give them?
Bird: You have to put the time and the effort in to get there. And it can be challenging, not just physically but mentally, emotionally, everything. No matter what the situation is, no matter how hard it seems, whether you're dealing with an injury or whatever, you've got to know that the more times you overcome those obstacles, the better off you'll be. It's how you overcome them that will make you a player that can survive in this league.
Q. What was the hardest skill you had to learn?
Bird: The mental aspect of the game. That, and as I've got older, really being in tune with my body. It's not to say I'm the best shooter, the best dribbler and the best this and that, clearly I've had to work on those things throughout the years. But if I were to tell someone who really wanted to be in the WNBA, I'd tell them to be in the best shape you can be in at all times. When you're 21-22, you may not realize it and as you get older you definitely do, but if you can start it at that age, that's even better. I know when I'm tired, my game drops. You can't go as fast, you can't go as hard, your legs might not be under you when you shoot. And mentally when you get tired, you make mistakes.
Q. So do you plan on being back in Seattle next year?
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