Sami Whitcomb and the Seattle Storm will play eight regular-season games in the 2020 season at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sami Whitcomb and the Seattle Storm will play eight regular-season games in the 2020 season at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Storm returning to Everett for 8 games in 2020

The three-time WNBA champions will again play a portion of their season at Angels of the Winds Arena.

EVERETT — The Seattle Storm are coming back to Everett.

The three-time WNBA champions, who used Angel of the Winds Arena as one of their temporary homes during the 2019 season, will do so again in 2020, with eight home games in August and September set to be played in Everett.

The confirmation came when the Storm released their full 2020 schedule Thursday.

“In the first year of our temporary relocation, Angel of the Winds Arena proved that it is not only a top-notch hockey and concert venue, but also an excellent venue for Storm basketball,” Storm general manager Alisha Valavanis said via text message. “We are excited to once again bring world-class professional basketball to the Snohomish County community in 2020.”

The Storm have been forced from their regular home by the demolition of KeyArena and the construction of a new Seattle arena, which meant the team had to find temporary home venues for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. In 2019, Seattle split its home games between two locations, with 12 played at the University of Washington’s Alaska Airlines Arena and five at Angel of the Winds.

The Storm drew good crowds for their games in Everett, with an average announced attendance of 6,816. Seattle averaged 7,872 in its games at Alaska Airlines Arena.

Toward the end of last season both Valavanis and Angel of the Winds Arena general manager Corey Margolis expressed enthusiasm at the possibility of partnering again for the 2020 season. The relationship was solid enough that the Storm’s basketball floor has remained housed at Angel of the Winds ever since Seattle’s 2019 season ended last September.

“We’re thrilled to have them back,” Margolis said. “It’s fantastic having professional basketball here in Everett, and they’re a tremendous organization to work with across the board. It’s a privilege to work with them and to have them put trust in us for a second season. We look forward to having even more games this season than we had last season.”

Everett will host all eight Storm home games following the midseason break for the 2020 Olympics, which take place July 24-Aug. 9 in Tokyo. Seattle’s first game following the break is Aug. 16 against the Las Vegas Aces, which will be at Angel of the Winds. The Storm also conclude the season with five straight home games from Sept. 8-20. Two of the games in Everett will be televised nationally: The Aug. 25 game against the Minnesota Lynx will be on ESPN2, while the Sept. 13 game against the Phoenix Mercury will be on ABC.

Seattle’s first 10 home games will be at Alaska Airlines Arena, including the season opener on May 15 against the Dallas Wings.

It’s a different configuration of games in Everett from last season. Last year the Storm played their first three home games in Everett, including their season opener when Seattle held its ring ceremony and banner raising for winning the 2018 WNBA championship, then two more in August. This year they’re all in the second half of the season.

“The crossover from UW to Everett comes at a natural breaking point in the season with the league-wide pause for the 2020 Summer Olympics,” Valavanis texted. “We are excited to make our second-half push at Angel of the Winds as we battle for playoff positioning.”

If last season was any indication, the Storm should have good home-court advantage for that playoff push. Seattle, which finished 18-16 last season and earned the No. 6 seed to the postseason, was 4-1 at Angel of the Winds last season, then won its lone home playoff game when the Storm beat Minnesota in a first-round single-elimination game (Seattle was eliminated by the Los Angeles Sparks in a second-round single-elimination contest).

And this year local fans should get to see the Storm at full strength. Last season Seattle played without its two biggest stars because of injury. Forward Breanna Stewart, the 2018 WNBA MVP, was lost for the season when she suffered a ruptured Achilles prior to the season. Point guard Sue Bird, an 11-time WNBA All-Star, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery right after the season began and never made it onto the court.

However, both are back in action, having been selected by USA Basketball to participate in the national team’s exhibition games against the University of Connecticut on Jan. 27 and University of Louisville on Feb. 2, which are part of Olympic preparations. Stewart and Bird will be joined by Storm teammate Jewell Loyd in playing for the U.S. at the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament on Feb. 6-9 in Belgrade, Serbia — though the U.S. has already qualified for the Olympics.

In the absence of Stewart and Bird, the Storm were led last season by forward Natasha Howard, who was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-WNBA after averaging 18.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Loyd added 12.3 points per contest.

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