Is that Gary Kloppenburg coaching on the sideline for the Storm or Geno Auriemma? Are these games being played in Bradenton, Fla., or Storrs, Conn.?
Because the way Seattle is dominating, players such as Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird probably feel like they’re back in college at UConn. The Storm aren’t just defeating its opponents — they’re demoralizing and dejecting them, too.
At 10-1, Seattle may just be the hottest team in American sports right now. But it’s not just the record that leaps off the screen, it’s the mammoth final-score disparities.
On Sunday the Storm downed the Connecticut Sun, 95-72. Two days earlier they beat Dallas, 83-65. Two days before that Seattle walloped Atlanta, 100-63. And two days before that the Storm trounced Chicago. 89-71.
That’s an average victory of 24 points in what may be the most competitive sports league in the U.S. When 144 of the world’s best players are spread out over 12 teams, you aren’t supposed to see scores like that. But it’s happening, and by several indications — it’s going to keep happening for years on end.
Stewart is just 25 and has already established herself as the best player in the world. After having what many believe to be the greatest college career ever, the forward has notched one league MVP, a WNBA championship and — at 18.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game this year — is in the running for MVP No. 2.
As for Bird, well, she’s 14 years older than 25. And though she is still playing at an efficient level, her backup — Jordin Canada — has been about as productive in her time on the court.
Bird is averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 assists in her 22 minutes per game. Canada is at 9.0 points and 5.3 assists in 25 minutes per game.
Nobody is going to replace the experience and wisdom that Bird brings to the court when she eventually retires. But this team does have a 25-year-old in Canada who has shown she can match Bird’s current production.
But there is also Jewell Loyd, who is just 26 and adding 13.6 points per game. There is Sami Whitcomb averaging 9.9 points in less than 20 minutes per game. There is Alysha Clark posting 10.2 points and 3.5 assists. And these victories are all coming as Natasha Howard, who tallied 18.2 points per game en route to making her first All-Star Game last year, has struggled with just 5.4 points (and 6.1 rebounds) this season. Her improving almost seems like a given, and she had 12 points and 11 rebounds in Sunday’s victory.
It’s unfortunate there are only 22 games on the schedule this year, or else we might have seen the Storm put up a WNBA record for most wins in a season. As it stands, the Phoenix Mercury hold that mark with 29 in a 34-game season, but the way Seattle is dismantling its foes, would surpassing that number seem inconceivable? Not really. Especially when you consider the huge wins over Chicago and Minnesota (24 points), which are 7-3 and 7-4, respectively.
Much of this, of course, revolves around Stewart. Her season-ending Achilles injury last year deprived her the chance to defend the Storm’s title, and may have caused some memory loss among fans as to how dominant she was. But what she and her teammates are doing this year almost puts an asterisk next to the Washington Mystics’ title last year.
Do people not think the Storm would have been the favorite in 2019 had the team been fully healthy? After capturing a title in her third year, would Stewart not have been even tougher to stop in her fourth?
Well, right now she is showing her dominance hasn’t waned whatsoever. And it’s becoming apparent that in the WNBA, the path to the championship runs through Seattle. Barring injuries, that will likely be the case for several years.
©2020 The Seattle Times