The Storm’s Crystal Langhorne averaged 4.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in 26 games for Seattle last season. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Storm’s Crystal Langhorne averaged 4.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in 26 games for Seattle last season. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Storm’s Langhorne prepared for task of replacing MVP Stewart

The veteran forward on filling in for the injured superstar: “All I can do is be myself.”

  • By Percy Allen The Seattle Times
  • Thursday, May 9, 2019 5:49am
  • SportsStorm

By Percy Allen / The Seattle Times

Let’s get this out of the way so everyone is on the same page: Crystal Langhorne may fill the gaping void in the middle of the Seattle Storm’s starting lineup, but she’s not going to replace Breanna Stewart.

Because that’s impossible.

And that’s not a knock against Langhorne. It’s a testament to the all-around greatness of Stewart, the WNBA’s reigning MVP who is out for the season due to an Achilles tendon injury.

“Nobody in this locker room or in this gym is sitting here saying Lang is going to replace Stewie or anyone is going to replace Stewie,” Storm guard Sue Bird said. “She’s not replaceable. It doesn’t work that way. In sports, injuries happen and when they do you have to think about who you do have and not who you don’t have.

“How do we go forward? It’s got to be by committee. It’s never going to be one person stepping in and getting all the points and rebounds that Stewie provided.”

During Tuesday’s training camp practice ahead of the season opener on May 25 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Stewart received treatment in a corner of the gym beneath Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion while Langhorne assumed her spot with the defending WNBA champions, who are missing a handful of returners who are still playing overseas.

Langhorne will likely get the first crack at filling in for Stewart in large part because the 6-foot-4 forward has the requisite size, with more talent and experience than anyone else in camp.

Just don’t expect the 12-year veteran to average 21.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals like Stewart did last season.

Langhorne understands better than anyone the fallacy in the comparisons with Stewart because similar assessments were made in 2014 when Seattle acquired the two-time All-Star (2011 and 2013) in a trade with Washington to replace — there goes that word again — Hall of Famer Lauren Jackson.

As much as Langhorne bristled at the comparisons, they persisted during the 2014 and 2015 seasons when Seattle finished 12-22 and 10-24, respectively, which snapped a 10-year playoff streak.

“You can’t compare me to Lauren,” Langhorne said. “You can’t compare me to Stewie. I’m not that type of player. Even though I was an All-Star, I knew I wasn’t the caliber of player as Lauren. And I’m not the same as Stewie either.

“All I can do is be myself. … I’m older now and I have a different mindset. Mentality wise, I know what I do well. At times in the past I was worried about what other people thought and now I don’t as much any more. I was too much of a people pleaser when I was younger.”

Admittedly, 2018 was bittersweet for Langhorne, who lost her starting job after the season opener to newcomer Natasha Howard who had a breakout season and proved to be the catalyst to a championship puzzle.

It was the first time Langhorne came off the bench since her rookie year in 2008. She also won her first WNBA title, albeit in a backup role that was unexpected.

“At first it was hard, then I saw I couldn’t do the things defensively that Tasha could,” Howard said. “I could see the difference. I was like, we’re winning so (I’ll) just have a different role and accept it.

“But I’m not going to lie, it was hard when I came back (from an eight-game layoff due to injury). You have to be real with yourself in the things you can do and the things you can’t do. Because I’m older I could see that. If I was younger I might have been upset, but since I was older I could see the difference.”

Despite averaging 4.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.3 steals and 0.1 blocks — all career lows — last season, Seattle re-signed the 32-year-old Langhorne to a three-year deal. According to High Post Hoops, her $105,000 salary is the fifth highest among the Storm.

“What I said to (Storm CEO Alisha Valavanis), let’s make sure she knows she’s appreciated here, but let her drive the decision,” Storm coach Dan Hughes said. “Her wanting to be here and adjusting to a different role is a powerful statement.

“She beautifully handled what could have been a difficult situation as far as playing time and her role and that’s why we’re champions, because we had players like her. All she said was, ‘What do you need coach and I’ll do it.’”

At the moment, the Storm need a fifth starter to pair with All-Star guards Bird and Jewell Loyd and forwards Howard and Alysha Clark.

“Lang is logically where you first think, but to be honest I try real hard to think not in terms of replacing Stewie but finding our strengths as a team this year and playing to that,” Hughes said. “She’s going to be one of them. There will be other players and the ball will find its way naturally to other places.”

Defensively, there shouldn’t be much of drop-off with Langhorne playing alongside Howard. The Storm could also opt to employ a small lineup and flood the floor with shooters, which would leave Seattle vulnerable defensively.

“With any new team that’s forming its identity you figure it out as you go,” Bird said. “I can’t sit here and tell you exactly what’s going to happen.

“As chemistry goes, you can’t necessarily make predictions and say what you want it to be. It’s just going to be what it is. So we’re just going to have to go out there and play with each other and see what works.”

It’s uncertain if Langhorne and Howard are compatible offensively considering both are players who primarily operate in the paint.

“Lang likes working inside and my game is moving outside so we’ll make it work,” said Howard, who attempted just 22 3-point attempts during her previous four years before shooting a personal best 32.7 percent on 3-pointers (17 of 52) last season. “We didn’t play together much last year, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Langhorne’s offensive brilliance is her flawless midrange jumper. She nearly set the WNBA single-season record for field-goal percentage in 2016 and 2017 while shooting 63.0 and 64.7 percent, respectively.

Conversely, she’s just 8 for 44 (18.2 percent) on 3-pointers in her career.

“Strange enough, that was one of the things I worked on during the offseason,” Langhorne said. “But I want to see how it looks in camp.

“It’s annoying that I’m like this, but before I shoot a certain type of shot, I work on it a lot. It’s not as good as my 17-footer, but I know I’ve worked on it. So we’ll see how it goes.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Washington's Sami Reynolds runs the bases against McNeese during an NCAA softball game on Saturday, May 20, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Local softball stars Reynolds, Mahler set for WCWS

Washington’s Sami Reynolds (Snohomish) and Stanford’s River Mahler (Monroe) each play prominent roles on their Pac-12 teams.

Alberto Rodriguez.
Rodriguez puts on power display, leads AquaSox to series win

The 22-year-old outfielder mashed 11 extra-base hits, including six home runs, as Everett took five of seven from Eugene.

Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for May 22-28

The Athlete of the Week nominees for May 22-28 Voting closes at… Continue reading

Daniel Kim, left, and Ben Borgida, right, chat between holes during the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament at the Everett Golf and Country Club in Everett, Washington on Monday, May 29, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Kim soars to 4-shot win in 92nd Snohomish County Amateur

The WSU freshman and Kamiak graduate’s 12-under final total was the historic tournament’s lowest since at least 2010.

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge gestures after hitting a solo home-run against the Seattle Mariners during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Caean Couto)
Judge strikes again, Mariners lose to Yankees

Seattle falls 10-2 for a second consecutive lopsided loss.

Cooper Cummings from the United States celebrates after winning a men's downhill during the Cheese Rolling contest at Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, Monday May 29, 2023. The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual event where participants race down the 200-yard (180 m) long hill chasing a wheel of double gloucester cheese. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Arlington High School grad is the big cheese after winning UK race

Cooper Cummings, who grew up in Lake Stevens, defeated a world record-holder in Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake.

Jackson High School is awarded the 2023 WIAA class 4A softball championship trophy in Richland, Wash., on Sat., May 27. (TJ Mullinax/for The Herald)
Jackson wins state title over GP after game called by weather

The Timberwolves win 5-1 to hoist their third state softball trophy since 2018 after a game that ended in unusual fashion.

Lake Stevens’ Grant Buckmiller takes a peek at the clock as he runs to the title in the 4A boys 200 meter dash during the WIAA State Track and Field Championships on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State track: Lake Stevens sprinter Buckmiller blazes to multiple titles

Also, Kamiak’s Kalia Estes and Jaedyn Chase claim championships and more on local title winners and state placers.

The Yankees’ Aaron Judge jogs the bases after hitting his second home run of the game a Mariners first baseman Ty France looks on during the sixth inning of a game Monday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Judge homers twice, Yankees clobber Mariners

Rookie standout Bryce Miller struggles against the New York lineup in Seattle’s 10-4 loss.

Most Read