SEATTLE (AP) — Amid her lengthy jersey retirement speech last weekend, Sue Bird took a moment to talk about the future of the only franchise she played for in her WNBA career.

And how that franchise — the Seattle Storm — is now in the hands of Jewell Loyd.

“To see your game grow, to see you grow as a person, as a human, as a basketball player, I’m still so excited that I have a courtside seat and I get to watch it continue,” Bird said, words directed to her former teammate. “I’m so proud of you. You are really becoming such a wonderful player to watch and such a wonderful leader to watch. I see how your teammate interact with you and I’m impressed.”

For more than 20 seasons, Bird was the face of the Storm and for two separate stretches she was joined by arguably the best players in the world at that time in Lauren Jackson and Breanna Stewart.

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But Seattle has now entered a different phase of the franchise after Bird retired and Stewart signed with the New York Liberty in free agency. It’s a rebuild for Seattle that is centered around Loyd, now in her ninth season.

And with it comes opportunity and responsibility that Loyd hasn’t been asked to take on in the past, especially with someone like Bird as her teammate.

“Jewell is great when she’s scoring for us and is very active defensively. And so what I’ve asked her for this year in the leadership role is to do it by example, how you show up every single day, how you work, that this new team understands what it takes to be successful in this league,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said. “And she’s done that at a high level. She came to camp in shape and she’s in a great space mentally, physically and I think she’s really honed in on what it takes to perform.”

So far, Loyd’s example on the court is what Quinn wanted. Loyd is leading the league averaging nearly 25 points per game, nearly 10 more than her career average. Her rebounding and assist numbers are up and she’s playing 35 minutes per game, although it hasn’t translated to much success with Seattle sitting at 2-6 after eight games.

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But that’s all the easy stuff for Loyd, going out and playing with the same confidence and swagger that has made her a four-time All-Star.

It’s the leadership piece that is new for Loyd, and in some ways outside of what she is comfortable with. Whether it was Bird, Stewart or a litany of other veteran players that dotted Seattle’s roster in previous seasons, Loyd raising her voice simply hasn’t been a need.

It’s become a need, especially with a team looking ahead at a challenging season in the first stage of its evolution in the post-Bird, post-Stewart era.

“I’m definitely more vocal. Talking way more, I think,” Loyd said. “I mean, I don’t have to do anything crazy. I’ve always let my work do most of the talking and learning and demonstrating. I think now it’s using my voice here and there, but it’s not just me on this team leading.”

Loyd is quick to point out Seattle does have some other veterans like Mercedes Russell, Sami Whitcomb, Kia Nurse and Yvonne Turner that help supplement a roster featuring seven players with less than three years of experience.

Whitcomb, Nurse and Turner were purposeful offseason additions by Seattle in part because they could take some of those intangibles off Loyd’s shoulders.

“It’s not just my burden, it’s all of us helping out,” Loyd said. “It just makes it easier because it’s not all on me.”

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