Sue Bird keeps Team USA door open, too

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Some days, Sue Bird feels as if she’s on borrowed time. Other days, the WNBA’s oldest player considers a potential fifth Olympics in Tokyo.

“Only three years away,” she said Sunday.

Bird, like her former University of Connecticut teammate Diana Taurasi, sounds more optimistic now about playing for Team USA again than she did last year. They could both be on the 2018 World Cup team.

Taurasi said last week that she would keep playing for the national team as long as she’s asked, with one likely caveat. Bird would have to suit up, too.

“It’s easy to group us in a lot of ways,” Bird said before scoring a season-high 21 points in a Seattle Storm loss at the New York Liberty on Sunday. “I’m sure the decision will be kind of, sort of together, but at the same time, separate.

“In terms of health and where you are in two, three years, it’s tough to say. I can also tell you that, I think I can speak for both of us when I say, if we’re both playing at a high level and feel good and we’re asked to represent our country, it would be really hard to say no.”

Bird turns 40 in 2020, when she will be nearly three years older than any previous U.S. Olympic basketball player. She said before Rio that 2016 would likely be her last Olympics.

Bird, who missed one game in Rio with a left knee sprain, underwent left knee surgery for a fifth time in April. But she’s averaging a career-high 8.1 assists per game this season, leading the WNBA through seven games.

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, who replaced Geno Auriemma (Bird and Taurasi’s college coach), said in March that it was her gut feeling that both Bird and Taurasi would make a run for Tokyo. Staley, Bird and Taurasi were teammates at the 2004 Athens Games.

Bird said she hasn’t had any discussions with Staley and no meaningful ones with women’s national team director Carol Callan the spring.

But Bird and Taurasi may well be needed. The U.S. team of 12 in Rio included just three primary guards — Taurasi, Bird and Lindsay Whalen, all 34 years and older.

“If it comes down to it and the team needs me in whatever capacity I’d oblige,” Bird said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t think if you’re asked to represent your country you say no to them.”

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