Sue Bird enjoying time in Nuggets role, still wants to play

DENVER -- Sue Bird, basketball operations associate for the Denver Nuggets. The title has a nice ring to it.

Sue Bird, point guard for the Seattle Storm. Now that's a title she's not quite ready to give up.

Bird has spent the past month with the Nuggets, hitting the road to help out with some scouting. The 38-year-old is receiving a first-class education in another side of the game, and it gives her something to ponder down the road.

That is, when she's shot her final jumper. The basketball fire still burns after she wrapped up her 16th WNBA season with a championship in September.

"I'm a player. I'm still focused on my playing career. I want to get the most out of that as possible," Bird said Sunday night before the Nuggets hosted Toronto. "Whether I retire tomorrow or in 20 years, I just want to get as much out as I can. But with that I have an understanding that basketball's not forever. At some point you've got to find something else, find your way, and that's what's so great about this. Hopefully with this process I can find out if I'm any good at this, if this is for me, and see what happens."

Bird was brought on board through a conversation with Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. He basically asked: What does she want to do when she's done?

"I always thought front-office work, being with the team day in and day out, that was something I wasn't going to get to until I was done," Bird said. "When he put it in a way I could do both, it became extremely attractive."

Admittedly, the learning curve has been steep.

"It's a lot of players. It's a lot of teams," said Bird, who's helped the Storm to three titles. "There's a lot of history that I'm stepping into now and having to learn about. The one thing you learn is when you can step out your comfort zone and be uncomfortable, you see what you're made of and who you are."

Bird's quickly gotten up to speed in her role as a scout. Then again, the Nuggets expected nothing less as they're off to a sizzling start.

"She's been an asset," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "Anybody who has a résumé Sue has is going to help any organization."

A native of New York, Bird played for UConn and helped the Huskies to two NCAA championships. She was taken by Seattle with the No. 1 pick in the 2002 WNBA draft.

Since then, she's become one of the league's most decorated players.

And now, she's becoming part of a growing community of women in the NBA. Kristi Toliver was added to Washington's staff of assistant coaches, and Chasity Melvin became an assistant coach with Charlotte's G League affiliate in Greensboro, North Carolina. There are also trailblazers such as San Antonio assistant Becky Hammon, former Sacramento assistant Nancy Lieberman, Dallas assistant Jenny Boucek, Clippers G League assistant Natalie Nakase and Memphis analyst Nicki Gross.

"There's something nice about being part of a trailblazing group," Bird said. "It's hard to look at myself that way because I look at Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo and Dawn Staley in that way. ... I know in 20 years I'll be looked at as part of that group I just named."