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Originally published May 13, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 13, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Bird signs for one year; future options still open

Storm guard Sue Bird, a restricted free agent, hopped off a plane from winning a championship in Russia and signed a one-year contract for...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Storm guard Sue Bird, a restricted free agent, hopped off a plane from winning a championship in Russia and signed a one-year contract for $93,000 to remain in Seattle.

Bird said the organization's uncertainty regarding its future in the city is why she didn't agree to a longer term.

"I thought it was just smart for me to keep my options open next year," said Bird, a four-time All-Star who's entering her sixth season in Seattle. "It's not that big of a deal because I love Seattle and I love the Storm organization. I know I'm going to grow to love the owners, and this is where I want to be. At the same time, it just so happens that my contract was up when all of this uncertainty was where it is, so just keep the options open."

Oklahoma City-based owner Clay Bennett announced the purchase of the Sonics and Storm on July and placed an Oct. 31, 2007 deadline for his ownership group to devise a new arena deal or said he'd relocate the teams. The state legislature decided not to vote on public taxpayer funding for a proposed $500 million facility before it adjourned, prompting speculation that the teams will be gone after this season.

Some players have stated they have no voice in the matter and would travel with the team wherever.

Australian forward Lauren Jackson, however, has stated she wouldn't play in Oklahoma City. Bird's decision has little to do with location, although she does own a home in Seattle as does Jackson.

"Vegas, Oklahoma City, China — it doesn't really matter. Bottom line is I want to play basketball, that's what I want to do and I want to stay in the organization," said Bird, who was drafted No. 1 overall by Seattle in 2002. She'll be an unrestricted free agent along with Jackson and Betty Lennox this offseason.

"This is someplace where I feel very, very comfortable," Bird said. "And not totally because I live in Seattle, although that's definitely an extra bonus. But ... like I said, I'm sure I'm going to grow to love the ownership once I get to know them better."

During the offseason Bird, whose heritage is Russian and Israeli, obtained her Israeli citizenship. The document allowed her to sign a three-year contract to play for Spartak Moscow without violating rules limiting the number of American players. Once Jackson signed a one-month contract worth about $150,000 to play during the postseason, Spartak had a pseudo WNBA All-Star team with Diana Taurasi (Phoenix) and Tina Thompson (Houston) also on the roster. For Jackson, the Superleague title is her second championship this offseason, as she also led Australia to the World Championship.

Despite 18-hour travel, both completed physicals Saturday morning and participated in an open practice for fans, garnering plenty of applause for their play against the male practice squad. The Storm is off today.

Storm coach Anne Donovan said both "looked great." Jackson, the team's leading scorer (19.5), is slimmer and said she hasn't dealt with an injury in five months, rekindling her passion for basketball in Korea, where she played prior to going to Russia. She is not expected to have to play limited minutes this season.

"The morale level, for midway through training camp, it's not normally like this," said Jackson, who bought herself a Jeep for her 26th birthday on Friday. "Today felt different, it felt special. I said that when we went into World Championships with our Australian team and we won, so who knows what will happen."



• Storm forward Iziane Castro Marques did not practice due to bursitis and Achilles tendinitis. Centers Janell Burse (shoulder) and Tye'sha Fluker (lip) practiced.

• Storm forward Barbara Turner's team in Turkey lost, but she won't arrive until Wednesday at the earliest.

• Guard Tanisha Wright, forward Shyra Ely and Fluker will be at Green Lake from 12:30-1:30 p.m. today handing out free ice cream.

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