SEATTLE (AP) — By this point in her career, Sue Bird is the epitome of a veteran. She’s about to become a three-time Olympian, is a two-time WNBA champion and is entering her 11th season playing for the Seattle Storm.

While all those descriptions are meaningful, the one that most defines Bird is the one she’s probably the most reluctant to accept: the player all other American point guards will be compared to in the future.

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“I think most point guards will always be compared to Sue because of the success she’s had at the collegiate level and the WNBA and with the Olympics,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. ” … She has tremendous instincts and great feel for making her teammates better. She’s probably as good at that as I’ve seen. And I’ve never seen anybody who can just come down and hit clutch shots. She just has a knack of finding ways to do those things.”

Even after a decade running the show in Seattle, playing for the U.S. national team or playing professionally overseas, Bird has yet to show any signs of decline. Although her assist numbers dipped in 2011, Bird averaged a career-best 14.7 points, while shooting nearly 43 percent on 3-point attempts. Seattle made the playoffs for the eighth straight year, but was dispatched in the first round for the sixth time in those eight seasons.

Bird gets to take on a new role when the Storm tip-off their season on Friday night hosting the Los Angeles Sparks. Seattle still has one of the most talented rosters in the WNBA with Bird, Camille Little, Katie Smith, Tanisha Wright and the addition of Tina Thompson, not to mention No. 2 overall draft pick Shekinna Stricklen.
Seattle traded veteran Swin Cash to Chicago for the rights to the pick that the team used on the 6-foot-2 Stricklen, who averaged 15.4 points and 6.6 rebounds playing on the wing for Tennessee last season.

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“Every day I know I have to come in and work hard,” Stricklen said. “These veterans, they know what they’re doing and they’re just going to tell you straight up if you’re not playing good or doing good. They’re straight up with you and that’s a good thing.”

Seattle plays an extremely heavy road schedule early in the season. Seattle plays 12 road games pre-Olympics, as opposed to just five following the Olympic break.

“We look at the first half of this season as probably the most important part of our season because we are going to not have our full roster and we play a lot of road games, and having success on the road is difficult in this league,” Agler said.

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— Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: Contributions by tamacbsseattle.