Sue Bird, three-time champion of the storm, took advantage of her off-season to continue working. Just in a different way. While she is still preparing for another title in the WNBA, she also works as a basketball operations associate with the Denver Nuggets.
On a January night, Sue Bird slips into the Alaska Airlines Arena about an hour before the men's basketball game in Washington and settles into a seat a few rows down the field.
Since joining the Denver Nuggets as a basketball operations associate last November, she has discovered an affinity for the evaluation of university and professional players.
However, his legendary status of sport in Seattle does not give anonymity to the star of Storm. That night, many fans congratulate her on winning a third WNBA title last summer.
Bird makes a polite conversation before saying "Sorry, but I have to go back to work."
She then finds another empty seat where she watches the USC Huskies and Trojans participate in the pre-match warm-ups, while keeping an eye on potential candidates.
In his new work with the Nuggets, Bird learns first-hand the many roles of an NBA receptionist. She was in the room while Nuggets management was discussing trade options before the NBA's trading deadline. She is also actively involved in the preparatory discussions of the team.
It's a tedious job, but sometimes these mundane tasks are juxtaposed to high-profile missions such as Friday's NBA All-Star Game, where she will coach Dawn Staley, Hall of Fame member. , as part of a starry night including the former former Sonics. Ray Allen standout.
Nevertheless, Bird says the best part of his new job is screening.
NBA Celebrity All-Star game
When: Friday, February 15 at 16h
Or: The Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C.
TV: ESPN (c.31)
"In fact, Becky Hammon was one of the first people to tell me that, one of the most difficult moments is just learning the staff because there are a lot of players," said Bird. "So, you just want to always have an understanding and an understanding of who is there. And the only way to do it is to go out and look. "
Bird is one of more than 20 current and former WNBA players and coaches who work in the NBA or G-League this season.
This is a list that includes Hammon, first assistant to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich; Former Storm coach Jenny Boucek, who joined the Dallas Mavericks coaching staff, and WNBA longtime leader Kelly Krauskopf, were hired by Indiana and became the first woman to hold the position of Deputy General Director.
No major male sports league has ever hired a coach, but the NBA has always been the most advanced American sports league.
"You're just trying to do your best and when the opportunity arises, you try to take advantage of the opportunity," Bird said. "But I think that simultaneously, we realize that we are removing the obstacles.
"Before Becky, there was Nancy Lieberman, but Becky is really the one leading the charge. Thanks to Becky and her success, it opened the eyes to other franchisees. And now, not only their eyes, but their doors. "
The 38-year-old bird was 16 when the WNBA was created in 1996 and she had models like Staley who inspired her to become a professional basketball player.
Now, Hammon is opening a new path for girls and Bird thinks the NBA will soon hire a head coach.
"It's only a matter of time," Bird said. "I do not see why a head coach is not there, Becky in particular.
"If and when this day comes, it will not be a publicity stunt. People do not mess up these jobs. It's because she deserved it and deserves it – it's the best part of it all. "
Bird complains that the WNBA is not helping players enter the NBA, citing the difficulties of Washington Mystics goaltender Kristi Toliver, who is working this year as an assistant for the NBA Wizards.
Because of the WNBA's rules to prevent teams from getting around the salary cap, the Wizards are paying $ 10,000 to Toliver for a position normally paid between $ 100,000 and $ 1 million a year.
"This is where it gets frustrating for all of us, especially for Kristi," said Bird. "It's not a job entrusted to him to sign for Washington. She's already doing the maximum … and it's not like she's paying less and then finding a way to give her extra money in the back.
"It's actually his career. It's not an internship where she does not do anything. That's what she wants to do. So, to stick to it, that's where we're all frustrated. "
While many WNBA stars play abroad during the off season, Bird and Toliver are the only active players in the WNBA to work in the NBA.
Players are tired of the current WNBA policies, and many are choosing to find a job in basketball overseas. The current collective agreement was signed in 2014 and continues until 2021, but players have decided to withdraw in November 2018 and will address compensation issues, among others in the upcoming negotiations, Bird said.
"I'm heated (and) it's not about heat, it's the difference between what's right and what's wrong," she said. "I do not want to get around the salary cap either. I do not think anyone does it. You want the teams to play just right. But it's not about that. He is a child who follows his dreams and has got a job on his own and is in the same business.
"That's not what this rule was supposed to stop. I understood. A rule is a rule and you must follow it. But I think that it must be remedied one way or the other. She is doing right now and she deserves to receive compensation, whatever it may be. "
Toliver's passion is to coach in the NBA, while Bird had no intention of getting into management when Tim Connelly, president of Denver's basketball operations, announced that his offer was "a incredible offer ".
Salary restrictions that limit Toliver's salary do not apply to Bird because the Nuggets and Storm have two different owners.
"I think my salary is appropriate for the job," said Bird. "I really do not know. Honestly, it was more of an experience, so the salary is a bonus. "
Shortly after helping the American basketball team win the gold medal at the FIBA Women's World Cup, Bird joined a young Nugget team that is now second in the Western Conference behind Golden State with a record of 39-18.
"All of this happened very randomly," said Bird, who jokingly told himself the team's good luck charm. "I already felt lucky to have had this opportunity, but now that I have this opportunity with these people, it's even better. Really, really good people. Super smart and I really appreciate it. "
Bird does not know if she will come back to the Nuggets next season. She just returned to the gym in preparation for Storm training camp in May.
The 18-year-old WNBA veteran does not pay much attention to her retirement, but she has several options for training, dissemination and now leadership of the front office, whenever she decides to end her career.
"It's pretty cool to think that we're part of his group and we're gutting doors," said Bird. "In my mind, basketball players are an untapped resource. We are now at a point where the league has been here for 22 years. We have players who have years and years of professional experience in basketball.
"Why would not you want to have in mind? Why would not you want to know their opinions or hear what they have to say? … Sometimes it takes a new take and that's how I see NBA basketball players having the biggest impact. "