Game Preview: Storm at Liberty, July 25

HOW TO WATCH
The Seattle Storm will open the 2020 WNBA regular season in Bradenton, Fla. against Sabrina Ionescu and the New York Liberty at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN and streaming live on the ESPN app. Fans can also follow along on Twitter (@seattlestorm) or by visiting StormBasketball.com.

GAME PREVIEW
After advancing to the second round of the 2019 playoffs, the Seattle Storm – bolstered by the return of 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart and 11-time WNBA All-Star Sue Bird – is poised to be in full strength for the 2020 season.

With another year and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year honors under her belt, Natasha Howard will be one to watch. Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell’s added experience as starters, coupled with veteran Crystal Langhorne and Storm newcomers Epiphanny Prince and Morgan Tuck, make the Seattle bench one of the deepest in the league. Four members of last year’s Storm squad received votes in the WNBA’s Most Improved Player balloting.

Ranked No. 1 in the AP Preseason Poll, the Storm is already the team to beat this summer with Stewart chosen as the AP Preseason Player of the Year. The Storm’s first opponent will feature the AP Preseason Rookie of the Year and 2020 No. 1 overall WNBA Draft pick, Sabrina Ionescu. Though her final shot at an NCAA title was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ionescu powered Oregon to a pair of Pac-12 Tournament titles and a 2019 Final Four appearance.

Ionescu is one of seven rookies on the New York roster led by first-time WNBA head coach Walt Hopkins, who was tapped to join the Liberty after serving as an assistant on the Minnesota staff. Despite New York’s youth movement, some of the Storm’s opponents on Saturday will be familiar faces. Kia Nurse was dominant for the Liberty in Seattle last season, averaging over 20 points-per-game in two contests at Alaska Airlines Arena. In a third game in Brooklyn, the Storm figured out how to shut her down, holding her to only three points.

Head coach Gary Kloppenburg will be at the helm of the Storm as the season gets underway in Bradenton. Known for his defensive expertise, Kloppenburg returns a trio of All-Defensive honorees who helped the Storm hold opponents to a league-best 75.1 points per game last season.

STAT TO KNOW
When both Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart were on the floor in 2018, the Storm shot 50.0% from the field and 40.8% from 3-point range. In the almost 26 minutes per game that they shared on the court, Seattle outscored opponents by an average of 8.3 points.

Seattle is 10-10 all-time in season openers. Last year, Seattle opened at home against the Phoenix Mercury, notching a 77-68 win in front of a sold-out crowd at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash.

FROM THE VAULT
Syosset, New York native Sue Bird made her WNBA debut against the Liberty on May 30, 2002 at KeyArena, falling to New York, 78-61. She finished with 18 points and 6 assists.

UP NEXT
On Tuesday, July 28, the Storm will face reigning Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier and the Minnesota Lynx at 10 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network and JOEtv. Two days later, Seattle will take on the 2019 WNBA champion Washington Mystics at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.