There's a simple reason why the announcement that Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird is listed as "day-to-day" with back spasms hasn't really seemed to caused much panic among the fanbase.
The Storm are first place in the Western Conference at 13-2 and 5 games ahead of the second place the San Antonio Silver Stars, who return to Key Arena after being battered and bulled in a 82-61 result a little more than a week ago. In other words, they appear to have a bit of a cushion in terms of maintaining playoff seeding even if Bird is out for an extended period of time. If Bird needs time to rest up before the playoffs, then by all means -- says the level-headed Storm fan -- let her take as much time as she needs.
That said, tonight's home rematch against the Silver Stars at 7 pm PST at Key Arena could at the very least be something of a "natural experiment" to learn more about how the Storm might perform without the player who steadies their offense.
Although it's difficult to ever truly "replace" a player of Bird's caliber, the Storm will likely insert reserve Svetlana Abrosimova into the lineup and move shooting guard Tanisha Wright over to the point, a lineup they have used throughout the season when Bird needs a rest. So what might that mean for the team's performance?
However, looking at the plus/minus data from the Chasing the Title blog, we see a potential complication in just inserting Abrosimova into the lineup -- at the quarter season mark, a straight substitution of Abrosimova for Bird was one of the team's least effective lineups:
The following lineups are struggling to be effective.Wright-Abrosimova-Cash-Willingham-Robinson: -18, -67.19 per 40Wright-Abrosimova-Vesela-Bishop-Robinson: -17, -54.91 per 40Wright-Abrosimova-Cash-Willingham-Vesela: -9, -54.96 per 40Wright-Abrosimova-Cash-Little-Jackson: -7, -46.67 per 40Bird-Wright-Abrosimova-Willingham-Jackson: -6, -38.81 per 40
The most effective lineups with Wright at point guard are:Wright-Abrosimova-Cash-Willingham-Jackson: +5Wright-Abrosimova-Little-Willingham-Vesela: +3Wright-Cash-Vesela-Willingham-Jackson: +2