August 4, 2020 

Jordin Canada has already proven herself

Sue Bird's heir apparent is ready to take over, whenever the Storm need her

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UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT/USA – July 20, 2018: Seattle Storm guard Jordin Canada (21) about to shoot during a Seattle Storm vs Connecticut Sun WNBA basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

“I don’t think I have to prove that. I already proved it last year. Granted, we made it to the playoffs. A lot of people didn’t think we would get that far,” said Seattle Storm guard Jordin Canada after Saturday’s game. “I think I’ve definitely proved myself. I’m not going out there to satisfy anyone but my team and myself and just playing my game.”

To think that Canada is still getting questions about proving herself worthy of starting in Sue Bird’s place is amusing. A team’s point guard is crucial to a team’s success. Canada was 23 years old last season when she started 29 games for a Storm team that went 18-16 despite the absences of Bird and Breanna Stewart.

She also thrived in her expanded role, averaging 9.8 points, 5.2 assists, and swiping 2.9 steals per game. Her efficiency has improved each year she has been in the league and accounted for 30 percent of her team’s assists while she was on the floor in 2019. Since Bird will continue taking regular rest nights throughout this unusual season, Canada will oscillate between starter and lead guard off the bench.

Bird took her first rest day of the season on Saturday. With Canada starting in her place, the third-year guard scored 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting, dished out three assists, and grabbed four rebounds in 32 minutes. The Storm are 10-1 all-time when Canada scores 12 or more points after their win over Los Angeles last weekend.

As the Sparks made a late push, the Storm were counting on Canada to be their spark. “Spark” is a role Canada has long embraced with this team. She has mentioned this in previous interviews and mentioned it again on Saturday.

“For me, on the defensive end, just being aggressive. I bring the spark for this team…. That was pretty much my mindset going down the stretch. Offensively, it was to slow them down. I know that last week I had times kind of rushing and turning the ball over multiple times, so I had to make it up on the defensive end.”

With no Bird or true emergency point guard, Seattle was counting on Canada to close out Los Angeles. In the fourth quarter alone, Canada had six points, drew four fouls, added two assists, and a steal.

Drawing fouls like that is something we haven’t seen from Canada in the WNBA. Even in 2019, her second season in the league, she averaged just 2.7 free throw attempts per game despite playing starters’ minutes. In four years at UCLA, she averaged 4.5 free throw attempts per game.

Even with Stewart on the floor with her, Canada found herself with the ball in her hand down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Using her speed to blow by defenders, Canada was able to draw enough contact to earn a whistle and the free throws. At 5’6’, Canada never shied from full-speed contact while dashing through the lane.

It was easy to see on Saturday a version of Canada so capable of bending and drawing attention from opposing defenses that she could possibly average three trips to the line per game. Learning how to change speeds and avoiding unnecessary contact would only enhance her ability to get to the rim and draw fouls.

Taking the bad with the good

This was far from a perfect quarter. She did have three turnovers: one on a lost ball and two from bad passes. She missed four of her first six free throws in the fourth at the worst possible time, but recovered to hit a pair with 35 seconds left in the game to give her team a two-possession lead.

The thing with many, if not all great point guards, is that you live with the mistakes because the upside of their playmaking is beneficial enough to offset it. As a senior at UCLA, Canada finished second in the PAC-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio, suggesting there is still room for her to improve at the WNBA level. Here’s an example of why the Storm can live with her six turnovers in Saturday’s victory:

  • With 4:47 and the Sparks within three points, Stewart grabs the defensive rebound and gets it up court where Canada eventually hits the layup.

  • Canada grabs the rebound the next time down the floor and assists on Jewell Loyd’s 3-pointer to push their lead back to eight points.

  • With 2:33 on the clock, Canada assists on a Stewart hook shot.

  • After two turnovers, Canada gets the steal and the foul where she hits two free throws to put the Storm up 79-73 with 35 seconds left.

The trust in Canada was evident on Saturday in the way the team allowed her to play through her mistakes. It was also evident after the game.

“We didn’t like how we played the other night and finishing this week off the right way before we have a lot of games in a row was super important and we made sure that we continued to bring our energy and no matter if Sue [Bird] was out, you know, next man up mentality, and Jordin [Canada] stepped up big,” said Stewart.

“I think she’s [Canada] developed a lot. Making her jump shot more consistent is definitely No. 1, and just the fact that her and Sue [Bird] are different players, she has the opportunity to really push the ball and make some misses and she got to the rim a lot tonight. Then at the same time, continue to know what she’s looking for. She can get an easy layup and that’s that, but also you know you have four other really talented players on the floor and knowing what positions to get them into to continue to be successful.”

Her coach admired how she played through fatigue after playing the entire fourth quarter and overcame some struggles to help her team pull out the victory.

“It’s tremendous. [Jordin Canada] was a starter all last year on a pretty good team so she can step right in and do that in situations like that. We felt like we struggled a little bit, we didn’t have another backup, a true backup point guard. I think she played some pretty high minutes,” said coach Gary Kloppenburg. “You know, [she was] getting pressured, so I think there was some fatigue down the stretch, but she made some pretty big plays too. She got down in the lane, made a couple layups.”

“[Jordin Canada] played a lot of minutes for us last year, obviously started for us and had the ball in her hands a lot. The biggest [difference] I think I probably see is late game, down the stretch where Sue [Bird] would probably have more poise, Jordin [Canada] is still learning,” said Loyd. “I think she came back and focused when we needed her… We try to push it as much as we can and you guys can see the difference. We want Sue, we need Sue as much as possible. She stretches the floor for us a lot. Different point guards, but we need them both. We’re glad that we have the flexibility to add them both.”

Finding opportunity

Considering Canada doesn’t turn 25 years old until August 11, there is still room for growth. Based on her play in college and improvement in the WNBA, it’s likely her decision making and shooting improve. If she can consistently get to the line, she can also become a more efficient player. Since she’s already filling the role of ‘spark’ on the defensive end, it seems as if she’s halfway there.

Canada will likely continue backing up Bird as long as she’s healthy and productive. A player like Bird has earned that right. Opportunities like the one Canada had on Saturday will provide chances for her to shine when Bird takes her necessary rest nights. You may even notice Bird and Canada chatting between timeouts of these games.

When the time comes, it seems as if Canada will be ready. After all, she’s already proven capable of doing the job.

Written by Derek James

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