Seattle’s Breanna Stewart races ahead of Brittney Griner of Phoenix in the first half of a WNBA playoff last August in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle’s Breanna Stewart races ahead of Brittney Griner of Phoenix in the first half of a WNBA playoff last August in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

You will be missed, Breanna

An injury will keep the WNBA’s reigning MVP from playing in Everett this summer

I was driving to work last Monday when I heard a piece of news that, from a professional standpoint, may be the most disappointing I’ll hear all year.

The best women’s basketball player in the world won’t be gracing the court in Everett this summer after all, and that’s a dang shame.

We’re a month away from the WNBA’s Seattle Storm opening its 2019 season at Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena, complete with the pomp and circumstance of a championship banner-raising ceremony. But unfortunately, it all will be happening without the Storm’s star player, Breanna Stewart.

Stewart was in the midst of perhaps the greatest individual 12-month stretch in women’s basketball history. She was named the 2018 WNBA MVP as she led Seattle to the league’s best record. She was named the Finals MVP as the Storm claimed the league title last September. She was the MVP of the FIBA World Cup in December as the USA took the gold medal. She was just named the EuroLeague MVP playing for Dynamo Kursk in Russia. And if there were awards for congeniality or best dressed, she probably would have won those, too. She cleaned up everything.

But the do-it-all 6-foot-4 forward suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon last Sunday while playing for Dynamo Kursk in a EuroLeague championship Final Four game in Sopron, Hungary. The injury, which will sideline her for 6-12 months, has wiped out her 2019 WNBA season before preparations even began.

“First off, I just want to say thank you for the tremendous amount of love and support I’ve received over the past few days,” Stewart said on Instagram. “The situation is still a shock to me, I have ruptured my right Achilles tendon. This year especially has been amazing and filled with lots of success and as we all know there are highs and lows throughout a career. This is just another obstacle that I will overcome. I’m thankful that I have so many people in my corner to help me every step of the way. I’m feeling every emotion possible at this point but just know that the bounce back will be real and I’ll be back better than ever.”

And it means we in Everett are going to miss out on our chance to watch one of the world’s greatest athletes in person.

The Storm are spending the next two seasons as basketball vagabonds while their prior home, KeyArena, is torn down and replaced by a new arena. Everett is one of the beneficiaries as Angel of the Winds Arena will play host to one preseason game (on May 15) and five regular-season games in 2019. That includes the season opener on May 25, when the Storm will celebrate their 2018 WNBA championship.

And I am looking forward to watching the Storm play in our backyard. I have to admit that I haven’t been a diligent follower of the Storm over the years. But I took in one of their playoff games against the Phoenix Mercury as a fan and was blown away by the quality of play. The game was fast and the players were skilled, whipping the ball around on offense like a pinball in a tremendous display of teamwork. It was a refreshing change from the men’s game, which has largely become isolation ball.

I ended up following closely the rest of the Storm’s run to the league title, and when it was announced that Everett would serve as one of the team’s temporary homes, I immediately began setting my calendar so I could cover as many of those games as possible.

But Stewart’s injury casts a bit of a shadow over those proceedings.

Indeed, it was a rough week for the Storm as a whole, as on Friday Seattle coach Dan Hughes announced he’s been diagnosed with cancer. One can’t help but feel a a heavy does of sympathy for Stewart, Hughes and the entire Storm organization.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to go to as many games as possible and I’m going to enjoy the heck out of them. We’ll have the great fortune to watch Sue Bird, perhaps the best female point guard ever to play the game. We’ll get to see Jewell Lloyd and her aggressive slashing to the basket. We’ll see the rugged interior presence of Natasha Howard, and the dogged perimeter defense of Alysha Clark. Even without Stewart I fully expect the Storm to put on a great show.

I just wish the brightest star among them could have been part of it.

Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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