SEATTLE -- You might have heard by now (a thousand times) that the Seattle Storm's Sue Bird, 37, is the WNBA's oldest player; she was even wearing shoes with the cartoon grandma from Looney Tunes on them in Sunday's Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. But that doesn't mean she still doesn't sometimes hear the voice of one of her college assistant coaches in her mind while she's playing.
Such was the case Sunday with the play Bird made near the end of the game to force a jump ball in Seattle's 75-73 victory over Washington. With the Mystics trailing 74-73, Washington guard Kristi Toliver drove the baseline. Bird reached around her to knock the ball loose, Toliver tumbled to the floor and a jump ball -- won by the Storm -- followed.
"You should go talk to Chris Dailey," Bird said afterward of the UConn Huskies' longtime associate head coach. "I've been doing that swipe-around-the-back thing since I was, like, 18 years old. She absolutely hates it. She calls it the 'Sue Bird move.' In fact, when she does scouting reports, she will say, like, 'Watch out for so-and-so; they do the Sue Bird move.'
"I literally -- the minute I walked in the locker room -- checked my phone; I knew I was going to have a text message about it. Like sure enough: 'Congratulations, you did the Sue Bird move.'"
Hey, it was successful -- even though Toliver and Washington coach Mike Thibault were convinced that Bird was trying to foul Toliver because the Storm had a foul to give and that the referees just missed it.
"I got fouled going baseline. I think it was pretty blatant; it was pretty obvious," Toliver said. "Sue is smart; she knows they have one foul to give. They wanted to foul before I could be in a shooting motion. I wish the officials had a little more basketball IQ, like Sue does, because that would have been the play instead of a jump ball."
Well, that was Toliver's version. And remember, her father, George, is a longtime referee who is currently associate vice president of referee development in the NBA. So that "basketball IQ" comment might not go over so well with him.
Bird, though, insisted her aim all along was not to foul. Even though the Mystics trailed by just one point and hadn't made a 3-pointer all game, it was Toliver -- Washington's best 3-point shooter -- with the ball. So Bird was worried about that, as well as the drive.
"You go into that, you don't want them to get a good look, right?" Bird said. "So when she caught it in the corner, there was a moment where ... I'm thinking, 'She might shoot this 3.'
"So I lunged out a little bit, which kind of gave her that pathway to get down the baseline. And once she went by me, I did the good ol' Sue Bird move and was lucky to get a piece of the ball. I knew we had a foul to give, but that was not my intention at all."
And even if Dailey "hates" the play, in this case, she had to be happy for Bird. Because it worked.