Let’s overanalyze what Breanna Stewart said — Must-click women’s basketball links — Kellie Harper talks Alabama, Pat Summitt

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, February 16, 2022

Happy Basketball Wednesday! As we discussed last week, Breanna Stewart’s got herself a fascinating year ahead. It’s nothing she can’t handle, one would figure based on her career to date, but balancing the chase for one last ring with Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd, while navigating the waters of free agency at season’s end, will make for a fascinating season to come.

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Stewart met the media last Thursday, and she had an opportunity to answer questions about why she chose to return to Seattle, why she signed for one year, and how she views the future. Let’s take a few of these answers down off the shelf and dive into them, shall we?

The first one actually comes not from Stewart, but from Talisa Rhea, Seattle general manager.

“Going into free agency, obviously keeping Stewie, who we feel like is the best player in the world, here in Seattle and continuing to build with her as the future of this franchise was a top priority.”

This is a reminder of what we all know, yes? Breanna Stewart is as valuable as any player in the world. If the WNBA had ten-year contracts and no salary cap or max salary, Seattle would want to offer that to her. Even so: this is well short of what maximums the WNBA does have in terms of length. This is one year.

So why was it one year? Stewart made it plain she had no desire to leave Seattle… in 2022.

“For me, the biggest thing with a one year deal was in regards to prioritization,” Stewart said, referring to the gradually closing loopholes allowing WNBA players to report late from overseas teams. “It’s something that, if I’m quite honest, I’m not happiest about in our CBA because it’s just really limiting what professional women’s basketball players can do in their offseason and their ability to make money overseas. So with a one-year deal, I have a little bit more flexibility in technically what I can do in 2023.”

Put another way: if Stewart is a free agent next winter, she can elect to wait to sign with a team in 2023 until after her overseas obligations are complete. Because she’s Breanna Stewart, she doesn’t have to worry about some team finding a roster spot for her, obviously.

Ah, but which team?

“No, there wasn’t a chance that I was going to go anywhere else… Just making things a little spicy.”

So that means Stewart is committed to Seattle for the long haul, right? Not so fast.

“I’m committed to Seattle for the season,” Stewart said. “And I think that that’s going to be the the biggest priority is we’re going to focus on what happens right now and not really think about what’s going to come in the future.”

It’s not as if Breanna Stewart saying she wanted to be in Seattle long-term in her answer to me here would have been binding. So it speaks volumes, in my view, that she didn’t even want to verbally commit here.

But does the WNBA have to worry about not having Breanna Stewart at all? I’ll turn the mic back over to her.

“In an ideal world I would like to be able to play in the WNBA and overseas as much as possible because I think that I have a reach in both communities in the the European game and in the WNBA. I think that with everything to come with Puma with signature shoes coming out, it’s a really difficult situation, but I don’t think not playing in the WNBA is a possibility.”

Again, Breanna Stewart understands the bigger picture. She’s got a shoe to sell. In the same way that players who haven’t built a WNBA name for themselves who try to bypass the W are going to find their European offers far more limited than those, like Stewart, who have built their brand, a signature shoe released in the United States is best sold by someone starring in the U.S. league.

I’ll tell you something else Stewart knows: it doesn’t hurt if she’s in the country’s largest media market, either.

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This week in women’s basketball

Congratulations to Coach Gordon on win 300.

The IX subscriber Jonathan Tannenwald writes about The IX subscriber Cheryl Reeve.

PJ Brown on Lauren Ware’s expanded shooting range.

Adam Vachon takes you inside Northwestern’s win over Michigan.

Strong breakdown of the DePaul offense here from Lia Assimakopoulos.

It’s a Joan Bonvicini sighting!

I wrote about NaLyssa Smith at SLAM.

Azzi Fudd is sparkling, Charlotte Carroll writes.

Ari Chambers’ AU roundtable discussion delivers.

Good stuff from James Hyman on the ACC bubble teams.

And Maryland-Ohio State is must-watch Thursday night.

Five at The IX: Kellie Harper, Tennessee head coach

Kellie Harper. (photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics)

On facing Alabama a second time…
“Yeah, it was such a long time ago that we played Alabama. I think anytime you’re playing a team twice, you have to be better the second game. Sometimes, it’s a little bit difficult if you won, because you want to have the same attack, you want to have the same game plan, but you have to understand they’re going to change something. So, we’ll have to go in and try to be the best Tennessee team we can be, but also be prepared for any adjustments we that feel like they might make.”

On her fiery locker room speech in the SEC Inside video…
“You know, I don’t yell every day all day, but I can get after it when I feel it’s necessary. And they just happened to catch one of those moments. You might come in there 10 times and not catch it, but they caught it. You know, I think that’s the competitive side of me. It’s not anything I’ve just developed; you can go ask the first team I ever coached, and they remember those moments as well. I think it’s… you know, a coach has to know what their team needs, and if that’s what the team needs to be motivated, to push past where they’re at, then I think the coach has to give it to them. You know, sometimes I don’t think they need that. The good thing about this group is they respond regardless of our approach, and I think part of that is they know we love them. And when you know your coach loves you, you can allow yourself to be coached hard.”

On the impact Coach Summitt has on her demeanor…
“Well, I saw it. Obviously, that’s the model that I had as a player. She was constant and consistent with us. I think, very similar. We knew she had our best interests at heart and that’s why we could be coached hard as well. And I think when you have that and when you’ve seen that, you know, it does stick with you. But I will say this, I don’t go in the locker room going, ‘Oh, let me try to be Pat.’ That’s just not going to work; I’m going to fall short there. You know, I have to be genuine, and I have to be me in those moments. And obviously, ‘me’ has taken bits and pieces from all the coaches I either played for or worked for in the past, and obviously, Pat’s a big part of that.”

On being compared to Pat Summitt…
“I’m ok with it. I get there are going to be comparisons. First, when I saw the video clip, the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh, our fans are going to say this looks like Pat.’ And that’s ok. I have no problem with that. I get it, and you know, I loved her too. We just miss her, and so you want to cling to anything that can remind you of her or that can bring back those memories. That’s why I’m ok with it, and I understand it. I’m not trying to live up to the comparisons. I’m not. But I’m ok with it, because I do understand it’s coming from a genuine place of just love from our fans.”

On not shooting from the perimeter too much…
“Well, we can’t change who we are at this point in the season. And one thing we don’t want to do is go out against a three-point shooting team and get in a three-point shooting contest. We’re not going to win that. We’ve got to play to our strengths, and the majority of the season, our strength has been getting the ball to the paint, whether that’s off the drive or off the pass, and then taking really good threes. There will be a few games where we’ll take more than others. A lot of that will be situational. So, we’re not going to pass them up, we’re going to take really good ones. And, you know, at this point in the season you’re not going to change your strengths.”

On what she wants to see as the team continues to progress…
“I think for us, obviously, the consistency defensively is always going to be important. The technical aspect of rebounding, so not just getting rebounds because we’re bigger, getting rebounds because we’re in the right position – I think is going to be important for us moving forward. And then, obviously, our offensive execution is something we said we’re going to work on all year long, and so that is… we’re never going to check that box. We can always find ways to be better, so that’s efficiency, turnovers, taking great shots, shooting percentage, all of that.”    

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.