SEATTLE — The score wasn’t the point of the Storm’s only exhibition game.
The return of All-Star point guard Sue Bird and building some team chemistry was what mattered, and Seattle can put a check next to both of those despite Sunday’s 74-67 loss to Los Angeles at KeyArena.
Despite the return of Bird, there were some kinks, including missed defensive assignments and some zigs when a teammate should’ve zagged on offense. And that is why this game was important.
“You’re not always going to get the prettiest results,” Bird said of Seattle trying to build chemistry heading into Thursday’s deadline for regular-season rosters to be set.
“At times, we were trying to do a little too much,” said Bird, who had 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting in 19 minutes. “At times, we were just off a little bit. Once our roster is set and the coaching staff gets a good idea of what lineups they like, that’ll all get fixed by itself. But there were things that stuck out that we can work on this week to help us win opening night, like counting on our defense.”
Bird missed the 2013 season due to an offseason surgical procedure to correct a cyst-like injury in her left knee.
She remained with the team as she rehabilitated and made her official return to game action in Russia.
Back with the Storm, she had two new teammates in the starting lineup. Storm coach Brian Agler traded his 2013 and 2014 first-round draft picks to acquire two-time All-Star Crystal Langhorne from Washington.
Agler started the skilled rebounder with Bird, Noelle Quinn, who’s playing her second season in Seattle, and mainstays Tanisha Wright and Camille Little.
The veterans were down 10 points midway through the second quarter. Then Bird hit her first WNBA basket since 2012 — a three-pointer with 5:57 left in the second half. Seattle started a 15-6 run off that bucket to end the opening half down 37-36.
Langhorne buoyed the team in the opening half with 11 points, and the Storm was outscored just 18-14 in the paint despite Langhorne and Little, both 6 feet 2, facing the Sparks’ rotation of four 6-4 post players, including two-time MVP Candace Parker.
“We both work hard, you can see that, and she’s tough,” Little said of Langhorne.
Storm third-year wing Shekinna Stricklen heated up from three-point range in the second half to help Seattle build a 60-58 lead at the end of the third quarter. She finished with a game-high 16 points, hitting 5 of 9 3-pointers.
Seattle used the fourth quarter to get a final evaluation of some reserves. Second-round draft pick Michelle Plouffe appeared in nine minutes in the second half while training-camp invitee Jasmine Lister played five. Neither logged a point and Seattle was outscored 16-7 in the fourth quarter.
The coaching staff expects to make one cut day to get to the WNBA-minimum 11 heading into Seattle’s season opener against Los Angeles at KeyArena on Friday.