The Seattle Storm will be without star forward Breanna Stewart for their single-elimination second-round matchup against the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday, the team announced. Stewart, the reigning Finals MVP, suffered a foot injury against the Washington Mystics on Sept. 7 and has not played since.
To this point, it's still not clear exactly what injury Stewart suffered. In that game against the Mystics, she came up hobbling after boxing out Erica McCall under the basket. Even on the replay, there was nothing obvious but Stewart was clearly in serious pain. The team is simply calling the problem a foot injury, and Stewart hasn't even been able to practice since then.
In the initial aftermath, the team announced that Stewart would be re-evaluated ahead of the playoffs. Unfortunately, she has not recovered in time to be ready for this game. Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said there has not been a setback; the team and Stewart's advisors are just being cautious.
"I don't think it was a setback more so than just kind of being strategic and taking our time," Quinn said earlier this week. "That's what's been communicated to me. I'm very comfortable with her team and the work that she's doing. I'm trusting them to evaluate her and to make that decision on when she's ready to go."
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Heading into the Olympic break, the Storm had the best record in the league and were in prime position to earn a top-two seed. But they struggled once play resumed and went 5-6 down the stretch -- 1-1 without Stewart -- to fall to the No. 4 seed. As a result, they missed out on a double-bye to the semifinals, and will now have to get through a single-elimination round without their best player.
That's going to be a major challenge, but if the Storm do beat the Mercury, there's a chance that Stewart could return at a later date. The best-of-five semifinals are set to begin on Sept. 28, with Game 2 on Sept. 30 and Game 3 on Oct. 3.