SEATTLE (AP) — Sue Bird’s eye for the court and knowledge of the game is what separates her among WNBA point guards, much to the frustration of her opponents for the past two decades.
Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault has watched Bird up close for his entire career in the WNBA. He saw Bird, the league’s all-time assist leader, put on a vintage performance as the Storm eliminated the Mystics from the WNBA Playoffs.
“As much as I love Sue, I will be glad that she’s sitting over in the stands next year when we walk in this place,” said Thibault, the league’s all-time leader in coaching victories.
Teammates and opponents point to Bird’s mind as her strength. She’s always analyzing, thinking several steps ahead. At 41, Bird has decided this is her last season. But first, she’s aiming for her fifth WNBA title with the Storm, where she’s spent her entire career.
Bird’s skill as a coach on the court will be tested when Seattle’s best-of-five semifinal against Las Vegas starts on Sunday. Las Vegas was the best team in the league during the regular season and has become a nemesis for Bird, Breanna Stewart and the rest of the Storm.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Bird said. “They just present a lot of problems.”
The Aces won three of four matchups this season — including two in the final week — and have won five of the past six dating back to last season. Seattle beat Las Vegas for its last title in 2020 in the WNBA bubble in Florida. If the Storm are to send Bird out on top, they must find a way to solve the Aces.
Thibault and other coaches in the league know the most successful point guards have incredible vision. It’s how they view the game before taking the court and while its playing out. There are few that fit the description of “floor general” to the level of Bird.
“We talk all the time about coaches on the floor. But there really aren’t that many to be honest with you,” Thibault said. “But she is one of them because she has an innate sense of feeling the game. Like ‘OK, we’ve come down and this isn’t working, but this did.’ She can literally tell a player, ‘Go there because I know they’re going to do this.’ She has a feel and she studies the game.”