Sue Bird and Crystal Langhorne getting comfortable with one another on the Storm
Veterans of the WNBA, Bird and Langhorne are getting to know new teammates this season, a situation they haven’t fully experienced since their rookie seasons.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Minnesota @ Storm, 7 p.m., LiveWell channel
Storm teammates Sue Bird and Crystal Langhorne sat in different parts of their KeyArena locker room Sunday talking about the same thing – comfort.
Veterans of the WNBA, Bird and Langhorne are getting to know new teammates this season, a situation they’ve haven’t fully experienced since their rookie seasons. Langhorne has the bonus of being in a new system in a new city in her seventh season.
A two-time WNBA all-star, Langhorne was part of a draft-day trade in April to be the latest replacement in the post for Storm center Lauren Jackson, who’s missing her second straight season due to injury.
Bird, who’s in her 12th season, played a decade-long pick-and-roll game with Jackson. Eight games into the 2014 season, Langhorne is adapting to a similar role.
“Everything was a lot to take in at first,” Langhorne said. “This is a whole new setting and different style. I’ve always been one of the old people. Now I’m fitting in as one of the new ones and getting more comfortable.”
It’s starting to show. Langhorne has recorded three straight games of 20 points or more, shooting a career-best 65.8 percent from the field overall this season. She had a game-high 23 points on Sunday in a win against Tulsa, the first home victory of the season for Seattle (2-6).
Langhorne has two double-doubles and is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds this season heading into Friday’s game against defending champion Minnesota (7-0) at KeyArena.
The numbers reflect her all-star seasons in Washington. Yet the way she’s reaching the figures is drastically different. With the Mystics, Langhorne was scoring off putbacks in the key.
In Seattle, the backcourt crew of Bird, Tanisha Wright and Temeka Johnson is looking to pass to Langhorne in the flow of the offense, especially Bird. But the point guard’s assist numbers have dropped to a career-low 3.6 as she adjusts to the new lineup.
“One thing I’ve learned about myself in this short period of time (back) is I’m a ‘comfort’ player,” said Bird on Sunday after recording four assists. “I like knowing where my teammates are without having to look. We’re getting there, Crystal and myself. When you have a player that’s shooting like 70 percent, you just want to feed her.”
Forward Camille Little helped Langhorne get comfortable. She noticed Langhorne was stagnant, and reiterated to her teammate the coaching staff’s words about Langhorne moving more and expecting the ball to be passed to her.
“(Now) she’s just playing,” Little said. “You don’t see any hesitation from her on offense, and it’s working. She’s hard to guard one-on-one, and people are so focused on T and Sue, the floor is so spread, she can go one-on-one. If that’s what they’re going to give her, we’re going to keep giving her the ball.”
Langhorne admitted she started the season with a rebound-first mindset. Now Langhorne said rebounding is a secondary thought as she’s given multiple dump passes to nail midrange jumpers or show off her footwork in creating a shot in the paint.
Looking for Langhorne instead of Jackson isn’t the only change for Bird. There are six players overall on the roster who weren’t on the team when Bird last played in 2012, two in the starting lineup. Bird missed the 2013 season due to a knee injury.
But building chemistry with Langhorne is likely the most important, particularly since there’s still one thing missing – wins.
“Yeah, I’m more comfortable and scoring, but we’re not winning,” Langhorne said. “It doesn’t really matter if you don’t win.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067
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