The Seattle Storm clinched a coveted double bye in the WNBA playoffs, but might be without veteran point guard Sue Bird. She is listed as questionable for Friday night’s game, the penultimate one of the regular season.
Bird collided with Dallas Wings Rookie of the Year contender Satou Sabally midway through the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game. Both players stayed splayed on the floor for several minutes clearly in pain. They both limped off the court under their own power and did not return.
Bird questionable vs. Mercury
Bird was listed as questionable on the Storm’s injury report on Thursday and Breanna Stewart was as well with a foot injury. They both underwent MRIs and coach Gary Kloppenburg said on a video call on Thursday he doesn’t think “it’s anything major or serious.”
“It’s all based on heath,” Kloppenburg said via the Seattle Times. “The health of the players is paramount in this situation and that trumps anything, especially a regular-season situation. We’re going to put their health ahead of having them play. Use all the time that we can to get them back healthy.”
Bird gestured toward her knee while she was down on the court after the collision. She was attempting a steal when Sabally had the ball near the point with 5:05 left, the Storm holding an eight-point lead.
“She banged that same knee. I'm not sure how bad it is,” Kloppenburg said Wednesday night in the post-game video call. “She was walking around OK at the end, so hopefully it's nothing too serious.”
“We’re just not sure what it is with her,” he said. “She’ll get evaluated and we’ll figure out going forward what we need to do with her.”
She missed all of the 2019 season due to injury and missed nine of the Storm’s 20 games this season due to a bone bruise. Bird is averaging 9.8 points and 5.2 assists for the title favorites. She turns 40 next month and is the oldest active player in the league.
What it means for the Storm
The Storm (17-3) locked up a double bye in the playoffs with a 107-95 victory late Wednesday night form IMG Academy. The rest from skipping those opening games could be more important this year since teams have been playing every other day.
They are still playing for the No. 1 spot, which would given them the benefit of playing a lower seed. The home-court advantage is less of a benefit this year.
Seattle plays the streaking Phoenix Mercury (13-8) on Friday. The season finale is now Sunday with a rescheduled game against the Las Vegas Aces (16-4), the only team that can take the top spot from them. The Aces won, 82-74, in the first matchup.
The Storm reached the playoffs last year without both Bird and 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart, who is back at the top of the MVP conversation after returning from an Achilles injury. Their bench could be a starting five anywhere else. Bird isn’t imperative, but she does rank third in points on the team and first in assists. It could be a time to give her even more rest before the semifinals begin in 10 days.
Sabally ‘not feeling well’ after collision
Sabally was listed as out on the Wings’ injury report for Friday’s game against the Chicago Sky (11-10). She is in concussion protocol after hitting her head on Bird’s knee.
Dallas coach Brian Agler said in the post-game media call that Bird and Sabally “collided heads.” Sabally was on the floor longer and had to be helped up.
“She's not feeling well right now,” he said. “I don't know what her status is; we'll probably know more tomorrow.”
Agler said she will get evaluated on Thursday. The No. 2 draft pick out of Oregon dealt with back issues earlier this year and missed five games. She’s a top rookie of the year contender alongside the Atlanta Dream’s Chennedy Carter and the Minnesota Lynx’s Crystal Dangerfield.
Sabally, 22, scored a game-high 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting before leaving the game. She added seven rebounds, three assists and one steal.
What Sabally means to Wings
Agler said in the post-game call that the loss is a way to show how far the Wings, the youngest team in the WNBA (yes, younger than the Liberty) have come since July. Dallas sits in the eighth playoff spot – the only one still available — with the Mystics (7-13). The Atlanta Dream (6-14) are also still in contention. Sabally is an important piece to keeping that playoff spot.
The Wings close the season playing the Sky, which are on a four-game losing streak, and the Liberty on Sunday. Chicago is playing for seeding (though at either No. 6 or No. 7, they will still play the Connecticut Sun); New York is playing for pride. Meanwhile the Mystics close out with the Liberty and Dream.
Sabally’s 7.8 rebounds per game lead the Wings and her average points (13.9) and assists (2.5) are both second. She adds nearly a steal and a block per game. Her presence will be missed not only down low, but behind the 3-point line where she can be dangerous.
Arike Ogunbowale leads the way with a WNBA-best 21.9 points per game.
More from Yahoo Sports: