Sue Bird is the glue that will hold Team USA together as they emerge closer to winning another gold medal.
The 31-year-old point guard is not the star of this U.S. squad loaded with talent. Far from it. Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker, Maya Moore and Tamika Catchings can all take over a game.
Team USA undoubtedly possesses the tournament's finest roster, but Bird is pivotal to keeping everyone happy as the squad's unselfish point guard.
The Seattle Storm star has served as the ultimate captain for Team USA. Prior to their quarterfinal match against Canada, Bird averaged 5.2 assists—the second-highest amount in the tournament—during the first five games.
In her third go at the Olympics, Bird is now playing the same role as Jason Kidd during the 2008 Games. With a cast of young superstars, the U.S. smartly recruited Kidd to lead the young men's squad as a distributor to amend a disappointing finish to the 2004 Olympics.
It worked. With Kidd at the helm, Team USA dominated en route to redemption.
This women's club is more experienced and has not tasted defeat in a long time, but they still feature an eclectic mix of scorers. After watching Bird manage the offense, nobody would ever know that this team has not been playing together for years.
With Bird running the show under her former college coach, Geno Auriemma, Team USA will not have to fret any athlete playing "hero ball." She will step aside if a hot hand materializes, but she won’t let a teammate force the issue.
While Bird has not looked to shoot, she is still a potent scorer. During her 10th season in the WNBA, Bird averaged a career-high 14.7 points per game. She has shot at an effective 43 percent during her pro tenure.
According to Doug Feinberg of The Associated Press, Taurasi, who played with Bird at UConn during their undefeated 2002 campaign, believes Bird is just waiting to pick her spot to score.
“There’s going to be a time and place where Sue is going to take and make big shots for us. With this many scorers, she’s our only true facilitator and passer. We need that from her.”
Bird will prevent Team USA from growing complacent and getting caught off guard at any point during the Olympics. Her staggering resume garners too much respect from her teammates. In addition to participating on the last two Olympic gold-medal winners, Bird also won two college championships and two WNBA titles.
Get ready to add another victory for one of women basketball’s all-time greats. Granted, Team USA would probably muster on even without Bird, but they’re nearly unstoppable with their highly-regarded leader.
Bird won’t let this team falter. In Feinberg's AP story, she stressed the magnitude of giving a maximum effort every game now that Team USA has reached elimination play—where they defeated Canada to advance to the semifinals.
"It's one and done. You can't overlook that, you can't have a bad night. I think really, the way I took that you have to make sure you're ready to play… You have to come and play in every single game.”