SEATTLE - After an early playoff exit last season, the Seattle Storm are looking to complete their unfinished business as the team returns home to Seattle Center.
Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and Jewell Loyd are all back with the Storm for the 2022 season as the team begins play in Climate Pledge Arena for the first time Friday night against the Minnesota Lynx.
After last year's playoff loss to the Phoenix Mercury, the possibility existed for the team to look vastly different as Bird contemplated retirement, and Stewart and Loyd were free agents. Instead, all three re-signed with the team to make another run this season.
"We have them on our team, we're always in the mix to be holding a trophy at the end of the year," head coach Noelle Quinn said. "The pieces that we added in the offseason complement those pieces and I don't want to get too high or too low, but I'm super confident in the work that they put in, the work that we put in as a staff and just the hunger and the desire and the competitiveness of this team, you know, that's going to lead us to where we need to go."
The Storm fell to the Mercury 85-80 in overtime in Everett in the second round of the WNBA playoffs last September. After a 12-2 start to the season, the Storm's play regressed in the second half of the season. After the Olympic break, the Storm won just five of their last 11 games. Stewart also went down with an Achilles injury in early September that required surgery.
"What was tough last year, more than anything, was that Stewie got hurt at the end," Bird said. "So that is really for me what felt the most unfinished. Of course, it felt unfinished because we didn't win."
Stewart, a three-time All Star and 2018 WNBA MVP, said she is back to 100 percent after the injury.
"The thing that I was most concerned about what was my wind and making sure that I'm continuing to kind of get into the great conditioning state that I want to be in, but I felt great, was moving great," Stewart said.
Bird returns for a 21st year in Seattle. She was named an All-Star for the 12th time last year in 19 years of play on the court for the Storm. She missed two full seasons due to injury in 2013 and 2019. The Everett crowd chanted "one more year!" as she was interviewed alongside Diana Taurasi after the playoff loss to Phoenix.
"I think the roster excites me. I think this is a championship-level type roster. I think we're hungry for that, given what happened last year," Bird said.
In electing to return, Bird gets to play inside the newly renovated Climate Pledge Arena.
"If I was ready to retire and I was done, I don't know if the arena would have pulled me out of that," Bird said. But I was obviously like wishy-washy about it and knowing that we were going to be able to play in Climate Pledge, knowing that we're going to be able to play in Seattle again, it didn't hurt."
The team has been away from home since the end of the 2018 season as Climate Pledge Arena was being built. The team played games at the University of Washington and Angel of the Winds arena in Everett during 2019 and 2021. The 2020 season was played in its entirety in Bradenton, Fla. in the "Wubble," the WNBA's bubbled site during COVID-19 pandemic.
The Storm won the title for the 2020 season in the Wubble.
When Stewart, Bird and Lloyd have been healthy, the Storm have won 10 straight playoff games with them together on the floor. They'll hope that bringing the band back for another run can lead to another championship chase this season.
"So to have Stewie back healthy, we've added a lot of pieces to the team. Don't leave any doubt, it's more so just don't have regret in your day-to-day approach. And then hopefully you can look back on the season and feel that way," Bird said.