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Seattle Storm hoping for quick rebuild

Veteran Seattle star Sue Bird is back for one more go-round with the Storm, but she's surrounded by lots of new faces. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Jenny Boucek has heard from Seattle Storm fans.

The new Storm coach knows she's dealing with an informed, impassioned base, and that base has been honest about this season of change in Seattle.

"People really were sensing that it was time for the rebuild," Boucek said. "They have been asking for it, ready for this new cycle of life for the team."

That new cycle begins now. The people who sat in the stands and watched Sue Bird go from a young talent to one of the game's all-time great guards, the people who watched Lauren Jackson come from Australia and transform a franchise, are all prepared for what's next.

"They want to see a new crop of young players -- they are excited to watch them grow up," Boucek said.

And the Storm are obliging. Jewell Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis represent the next generation in Seattle. But it remains to be seen whether these two young players -- who collected so many victories in their college careers at Notre Dame and Connecticut, respectively -- represent a winning franchise in their first season in professional basketball.

"I just want to make sure my teammates and my coaches are happy, and that I make my parents and my friends proud," Loyd said. "I know people are going to have their eye on me a little bit. But I can't worry about that. It's about teamwork and developing and doing what I can to help this team."

It's a team that hardly resembles Storm teams of the past, when they were one of the standard franchises in the league and Western Conference. Jackson has not played in a Storm uniform since the early part of the 2012 season. Tanisha Wright and Camille Little have moved on. Longtime coach Brian Agler left to coach the Los Angeles Sparks, which put Boucek into the head-coaching seat. And Bird is certainly approaching the end of her career.

The Storm missed the playoffs last season for the first time in a decade, finishing 12-22 and setting this change in motion. In fact, Bird, was not certain she wanted to be part of the rebuild. But in the end, she chose to return to the city she loves to mentor Seattle's young talent.

"I've been here my whole career, and there is a huge part of me that wants to finish here," Bird said. "It was difficult to see myself in another uniform. I did ask myself questions about how I see myself and my career ending. Did I want it to end with a team that was rebuilding? Or did I feel like I have a couple of years left to contribute to a championship team? But at the end of the day, I was connected to this franchise and I was sold on their vision. So that made that the decision easy."

Loyd, for one, is happy that Bird decided to stick around.

"I am asking her questions all the time," Loyd said of Bird, entering her 13th season. "She's helping me out with anything I need and I'm always picking her brain."

Boucek said she knows the learning curve is steep for rookies, and perhaps even steeper for high-profile ones. "Only a handful of rookies in this league have come in and been as dominant as they were at the college level," Boucek said. "It's normal (to struggle), and we are trying to help them. Not put any undue pressure on them."

It isn't going to be easy to start over in the Western Conference.

"We are going to be a team that plays really hard for each other," Boucek said. "Coach Wooden's definition of success was that you do the best you can with what you have and then you are successful. That is going to be our definition. Whether we are the worst or the best is irrelevant to me as long as we are giving our best."