Breanna Stewart easing back into practice with Seattle Storm after undergoing minor Achilles procedure
SEATTLE — Two-time WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart is “easing back into practice” with the Seattle Storm as training camp begins after undergoing a minor Achilles procedure last October, including participating in the team’s 5-on-5 scrimmages against a male practice squad.
Stewart’s 2021 campaign ended early when she suffered what was called a left foot injury on Sept. 7, causing her to miss the final two games of the regular season and the Storm’s second-round playoff loss to the Phoenix Mercury. A little over a month later, Stewart underwent “a minor repair and reinforcement of the Achilles tendon in her left leg.”
“It was a minor Achilles procedure,” Stewart explained to ESPN on Monday. “Taking care of the part that was off the bone and I would say it was like 50% torn — 50% was still connected. Just fixing that part so hopefully I don’t have to deal with what I had before.
“It was just a preventative thing. You never know if it’s going to go or if it’s not. If I had the time, I wanted to take care of it. I want to be healthy and I want to play without pain.”
The surgery was not as serious as the one Stewart underwent in April 2019 after the Achilles in her other leg ruptured while playing for Dynamo Kursk during the EuroLeague Final Four. That injury sidelined Stewart the entire 2019 WNBA season, preventing her from following up on a 2018 campaign during which she won regular-season and Finals MVP as Seattle won the championship.
After a grueling rehab process, Stewart returned to help the Storm to another title in 2020, winning Finals MVP a second time. By comparison to the Achilles rupture, the rehab wasn’t nearly as difficult for Stewart this time around.
“It wasn’t as traumatic, that’s for sure,” she told ESPN. “Having gone through it before, knowing what it takes, and the rehab process itself is faster.”
Stewart was able to get back on the court just after the start of the new year and began playing 5-on-5 basketball in March. She was planning to finish the international season with her Russian club, UMMC Ekaterinburg, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the arrest of her Ekaterinburg teammate Brittney Griner changed those plans.
Instead, Stewart completed her rehab in Seattle and participated during the USA Women’s National Team training camp held in Minneapolis earlier this month in conjunction with the Final Four.
“I think one time I played pickup before USAB,” Stewart said. “That was the first time practicing, getting back into a practice schedule. I was a little bit limited minute-wise but it felt good. I missed being on the court. Hopefully all of these things are behind me now.”
With an eye toward a busy year for Stewart, including the WNBA extending its regular season to 36 games for the first time and the FIBA World Cup following that in September, the Storm want to be judicious in managing Stewart’s workload over the next few months.
“I think it’s a combination of understanding where she is in her rehab process, working her in the fold so she’s prepared for the season, but also for me now understanding ways in which I can best make sure she’s fresh at the end of the year ,” Seattle head coach Noelle Quinn told ESPN. “Whatever ways we can do that — how we practice, game time, minutes, in our preparation.”
Quinn, who also worked with Stewart as an assistant coach during her rehab from the Achilles tear, remains impressed with how well the MVP has responded.
“Her shot looks good, her energy looks good, her pace looks good, her strength looks good,” Quinn said. “To be able to just function after two major surgeries like that, it’s a testament to just who she is in my opinion, but also how much she enjoys basketball and wants to be on the court and be here for her teammates.”