The grim news is made official.
Word came on Wednesday, officially, that Seattle Storm superstar and reigning WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart will miss the entirety of the 2019 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
The Storm added in a press release that Stewart is expected to make a full recovery for the 2020 season. The surgery to repair the tendon will be done by Dr. Neil ElAttrache, a well-known name in the sports world who has performed surgical procedures on athletes like James Garoppolo, the NFL quarterback, and Pistons forward Blake Griffin.
Stewart put out a statement via social media as well.
The extent to which this impacts the sport is hard to overstate. No one was playing at a higher level than Stewart, who managed to win a WNBA title (and Finals MVP in the process), a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup, and looked to be on her way to earning those honors in Eurobasket as well until she injured herself in the April 14 game.
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“This is a tough time for Stewie and our hearts go out to her,” Storm CEO and General Manager Alisha Valavanis said in a team press release. “The Storm family is behind her and we will support Stewie in every way we can as she begins her journey back to the court.”
Valvanis faces a difficult task, with training camp around the corner, and the Storm having already drafted as if they were simply filling in the final pieces around a largely intact 2018 title-winning team. Their top pick, Ezi Magbegor, isn’t coming to the United States until 2020 to play.
Now it is up to Dan Hughes, no stranger to coaching improvisations, to figure out how to build around the still-ample talent in Seattle, but on a roster that depends on Stewart to a large extent. More scoring from Sue Bird, further offensive touches for Natasha Howard and even things like more shots for Sami Whitcomb will all be likely outcomes here.
And around the league, what looked like a race to try and reach Seattle’s level suddenly feels more like a wide-open battle for the top spot. From a marketing perspective, the loss is enormous, with as exciting a player as perhaps we’ve ever seen in the WNBA won’t be playing games in 2019. It amplifies the loss of Maya Moore, and reinforces the need for Liz Cambage to find a home.
As for Stewart, it is likely she’ll put the same heroic effort into rehabbing that she has to get to this perch, as the best basketball player in the world, by age 24. Expect a temporary delay, and a comeback.
As Stewart herself put it, “The bounce back will be real.”
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