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Originally published Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 7:26 PM

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Sue Bird is latest Storm standout out for 2013 season

Sue Bird will miss the 2013 WNBA season because of surgery to remove a knee cyst. She joins Lauren Jackson and Ann Wauters on the sideline.

Seattle Times staff reporter

High turnover

WITH SUE BIRD OUT, that leaves just five players from last year's Storm roster who are expected to play for the WNBA team this season:

Returning players

Camille Little (11.3 PPG)

Tina Thompson (8.9)

Shekinna Stricklen (8.0)

Tanisha Wright (7.9)

Alysha Clark (3.4)

Not expected to play

Sue Bird (12.2) will have knee surgery. Lauren Jackson (10.2) out with hamstring injury. Anne Wauters (9.6) won't play for family reasons. Katie Smith (6.7) signed with New York. Ewelina Kobryn (4.8) unsigned. Svetlana Abrosimova (4.6) free agent. Victoria Dunlap (2.6) released late in 2012 season.

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Storm All-Star Sue Bird will miss the 2013 WNBA season after she has surgery on her right knee, according to Brian Agler, the team's general manager and coach.

The procedure will remove a cyst beneath her kneecap discovered before Bird, 32, departed in January to play in Russia. She is still competing with UMMC Ekaterinburg because she's not said to be in any pain.

A date for the surgery hasn't been set, and a surgeon hasn't been selected. But Bird will complete rehabilitation in Seattle to keep in contact with the Storm and attend games.

"Multiple doctors, including the Storm's team physicians, felt very strongly that to compete through a WNBA season would significantly increase the risk for a catastrophic injury," said Karen Bryant, the Storm's CEO and president, when asked why Bird could play in Russia but not in the WNBA.

Bird is the third Storm standout who won't return. Three-time MVP Lauren Jackson will also miss the 2013 season because of a hamstring injury, and center Ann Wauters won't return for family reasons. Like Bird, both were No. 1 overall WNBA draft picks. The Storm will play without Bird and Jackson for the first time since the franchise's inception in 2000.

Bird, a 5-foot-9 point guard, is playing in a lower Russian league and will not compete in the upcoming EuroLeague playoffs. Agler is uncertain if the decision is related to her knee.

The procedure is Bird's second surgery this WNBA offseason and third in two years. She underwent left hip surgery in October 2012 and right hip surgery in September 2011. Bird was able to play the WNBA season before having both repaired.

Though the Storm said Bird is not in pain, a team source said a knee cyst can feel like a meniscus tear. It can be painful, locking the knee.

Bird was unavailable to comment, but was told the cyst is unrelated to previous knee injuries, Agler said. She tore her left anterior-cruciate ligament (ACL) eight games into her 1998 freshman season at Connecticut. She had microfracture surgery on the knee in September 2003 to repair patellar chondromalacia. The last procedure on her left knee was in July 2007.

Still, Bird has missed only 22 games in her 11-year WNBA career, leading the Storm to two championships and a league-record nine straight playoff appearances. She's also won three Olympic gold medals.

"How it got there, why it's there, we don't know," Bryant said of the cyst. "We just know the cyst developed, and it's increasing in size."

Agler isn't giving up on the 2013 season. He signed free agent Temeka Johnson, a point guard who won a WNBA championship with Phoenix in 2009. Agler also has the sixth overall pick in the April draft.

The Storm is confident returning guard Tanisha Wright can handle the ball, and guard signee Noelle Quinn helped lead UCLA to a 2006 Pac-10 Conference tournament championship.

Wright didn't play overseas due to knee injuries. She rehabilitated instead and told Agler recently she'd report to training camp when it opens May 5. The Storm's regular season opens May 26.

"We have a good foundation to build on," Agler said. "We're a franchise that takes a lot of pride in how we operate. Part of our operation is how we compete on the floor. Every day we're going to put ourselves in position to make the playoffs."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JaydaEvans

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