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Sue Bird intends to keep on playing into next Olympics

Sue Bird celebrates a basket against France during

Sue Bird celebrates a basket against France during the women's gold medal basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Aug. 11, 2012) Credit: AP

WASHINGTON - Sitting in the pregame calm of the Seattle Storm locker room, Syosset's Sue Bird dismissed those who prematurely would write the final chapter to her glorious career.

"No, no, no," Bird said when asked if a slow start might signal her final season in a career that has produced two NCAA championships at the University of Connecticut, two WNBA championships in Seattle and three Olympic gold medals.

After all, the sharpshooting guard did miss all of the 2013 WNBA season after knee surgery.

"I'm getting this question a lot," said Bird, who scored seven points in each of her first three games this season. "I know the end is coming, based on pure logic, I guess. People see my age [33], see the surgery count [four in six years], and it's a natural question. But I really do feel healthy. I really feel good."

As if on cue, the seven-time All-Star sparked her team with 16 points Saturday night -- including a pivotal three-pointer with 90 seconds left -- and helped the Storm avoid an 0-4 start with a 73-65 win at the Washington Mystics.

"That's the Sue that we know, right there," said Seattle coach Brian Alger, whose team plays the Liberty on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. "Knowing Sue the way I do, I think she'll play as long as her heart is in it. She definitely wants to play in the 2016 Olympics, so that makes it [at least] this season and two more after that."

To date, Bird's focus has been strictly on 2014. Hardly idle, she played in Russia for UMMC Ekaterinburg from October to the start of the WNBA season. She's done a bit of broadcasting with ESPN. She's pondered coaching. But for now, her life revolves only around playing.

"I'd love to continue to represent the Storm," Bird said. "I'd love to have another chance to represent my country in the Olympics. If I'm healthy, absolutely . . . I'm very realistic when it comes to goals. I think it will all depend on my health."

Bird termed last year's knee surgery "precautionary." An unrelated MRI revealed that a cyst had increased in size and was remedied with a bone graft from her hip. She admits it's taken time to regain her groove.

"I'm definitely a 'comfort' player," she said. "As a point guard, I like to know my teammates, feel connected to my teammates and flow with them. With this team, as a whole, we're not there yet. Even though this is my 12th year with the Storm, this team is new, as far as I'm concerned. We're still trying to get to know each other."

Bird hardly expects Tuesday night's game to be her last at the Garden, a venue she holds sacred.

"For me, that's a place that will always be associated with professional basketball," she said. "As a kid, I remember going to games there and, as I got older, going to Liberty games.

"That was the place. It's the Mecca in a lot of ways. I was probably 7 or 8 when I went to see the Bulls play and was able to see Michael Jordan. [Former Knick] Kenny 'Sky' Walker was my favorite player -- because our games are so much alike," she added with a chuckle.

"I remember the first time I played there and, whenever the last time will be, I'm sure I'll remember that as well."

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