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Diggins-Smith finds fresh start with Storm

Kate Frese / National Basketball Association / Getty

SEATTLE (AP) — Skylar Diggins-Smith knew she needed a fresh start. Now, she will get to have it while playing alongside WNBA scoring champion Jewell Loyd, former MVP Nneka Ogwumike and All-Defensive second-team rising star Ezi Magbegor in her first season with the Seattle Storm.

“I connected with one player very early in the process, and that was Jewell. And If I wasn’t talking to Jewell, I was talking to Nneka,” the 33-year-old Diggins-Smith said Monday as she and Ogwumike, who both signed with the Storm as free agents in early February, had their first formal meeting with local reporters.

Diggins-Smith sat out last season after giving birth to her second child. She subsequently had a falling out with the Phoenix Mercury and made clear that she was looking to go elsewhere.

After averaging 19.7 points (third in the league), 5.5 assists (seventh) and 4.0 rebounds with the Mercury in 2022, the six-time All-Star and four-time All-WNBA first teamer was regarded as one of the top point guards available in this year’s crop of free agents. That position is one the Storm clearly needed to fill after Sue Bird, who led the team to four championships, retired following the 2022 season.

“You try to figure out how to play with players that you hate guarding or playing against,” Diggins-Smith said. “My Option 1, Plan A was playing with (Loyd and Ogwumike). That’s really important at this point of my career is to be around people that know me. Jewell knows me, and Nneka knows me.”

Fourth-year coach Noelle Quinn, looking to lead her team back into the WNBA’s upper echelon after last year’s 11-29 campaign, sees Diggins-Smith as a perfect fit.

“The thing that is very advantageous about Skylar is she plays at both ends of the floor,” Quinn said. “She’s a hawk on defense, and what she can do offense is not only creating for herself but for others.”

Ogwumike, 33, finished sixth in the WNBA for scoring (19.1) and rebounding (8.8) last season. The No. 1 overall draft pick and Rookie of the Year in 2012, she played all 12 of her pro seasons with Los Angeles. She was named the league MVP in 2016, leading the Sparks to the championship.

Once the eight-time All-Star and four-time All-Defensive first-team selection started looking for a new home, she knew what she wanted.

“Ultimately, it came down to feeling like I was a priority here and not necessary a piece to a puzzle,” Ogwumike said. “I want to be able to be consistent and efficient, but I do want to bring a different level of dynamic play. I know that playing with and against Skylar and Jewell every day, and Ezi (Magbegor), Sami (Whitcomb) and Jordan (Horston) will make me a better player.”

The Storm had the No. 4 pick in what appears to be a very talent-laden draft but traded it and guard Kia Nurse to Los Angeles, clearing some salary cap space to pursue the likes of Diggins-Smith and Ogwumike.

“We knew we needed a point guard and we knew we wanted a point guard to really elevate our team, and Skylar fits that and more,” general manager Talisa Rhea said. “The opportunity to add Nneka was obviously to have her and everything that she brings from a leadership standpoint to our post group alongside Ezi and our front court.”



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