New York native and WNBA All-Star Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm travel to the Big Apple to take on the New York Liberty Tuesday, May 27, at 7:00 pm at Madison Square Garden. Before taking court she sat down with nyliberty.com to discuss her comeback, the powerful Western Conference and her New York City ties.
NYLiberty.com: In a way this is a return to Madison Square Garden for you, too. Given that you're also from New York how is it special to play in New York City?
Sue Bird:It is special. It was kind of weird to not be in Madison Square Garden the past few years. Growing up in New York I always associated The Garden with professional basketball. Literally, for me, it is the Mecca. I'm looking forward to being back.
To me New York is more about the people. The best thing about playing in The Garden is you play the game, hopefully you win, but after you walk out and you're in New York City. I call my friends, see where they are and meet them. I usually see family or friends after the game. New York is one of my favorite WNBA cities.
NYL: Tina Charles is also from New York and joins the Liberty this season. She followed in your footsteps and went from Christ The King high school to the University of Connecticut. While there's an age gap between you two, do you have a relationship with Tina?
SB: Tina and I are really cool. We went to the same high school and same college- we kinda share in that. She's been my teammate with USA basketball. She's cool and a good person.
Tina has this relentlessness about her. No matter what's going on she brings what she's going to bring. She's almost a guaranteed double-double. There's something really nice about that consistency. She's incredibly talented but it's her consistency that separates her.
NYL: Since Seattle won the championship in 2010 there's been a shift of power in the Western Conference. As you try to get back in the mix with Minnesota, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, how steep is that climb back to the top?
SB: The WNBA is interesting. It's tough to stay on top year in and year out. There's only a couple ways: either through young talent and the draft or through free agency. I'm impressed with what Los Angeles and Phoenix did in free agency; they got better. Those two and Minnesota are stacked, although Minnesota is dealing with injuries now. Our team is starting from behind. We lost Lauren Jackson, Tina Thompson ...Ashley Robinson is hurt. We're small. We're trying to make it work.
NYL: The Storm are on a stretch of ten of twelve games on the road, what's the biggest challenge that this team faces right now?
SB: Trying to develop that chemistry as quick as possible. We're essentially new. I didn't play with Noelle Quinn or Temeka Johnson last season. We're developing the team on the run. We're playing against teams that have a core group; those players have been together. We haven't. We're playing catch up.
NYL: The team notched its first win of the season over the Mystics on Saturday after losing the first three games. After taking a season off to rest a knee injury, you scored 16 points in the win. How much did you need that?
SB: It's good to get the pressure off. It's good for the team to feel it. It was good for me. You don't realize what not playing a year does. You forget how fast paced it is. I played overseas this season but the WNBA is different. The talent is deep on every team; there's no weak link.
NYL: What clicked for the team in Washington?
SB: We're a defense minded team. We turned them over and did a good job rebounding the ball. We're smaller in size so we have to defend and rebound.
NYL: You mentioned the Storm is smaller in size, are you concerned about containing Tina Charles inside? How formidable is your post tandem of Camille Little and Crystal Langhorne?
SB: We're going to have to be creative. All season long we'll have to be creative. We rely on Camille and Crystal for a lot; they're our starting front court. The are experienced and tough; they need to play together. We rely on them and depend on them. After them, they're our only size.
NYL: Cappie Pondexter is being transitioned to the point guard position. As an All-Star PG yourself, what are your thoughts on that? Good move for her?
SB: I've played with and against Cappie and I believe she's definitely capable of it. 100% capable. With a team like New York her playing at the point allows for more scoring options. I could see why they would want to try her there. When she played in Russia she always played the point.