Coming back from a major injury is never easy for professional athletes. Seattle Storm veteran guard Kia Nurse knows that all too well. Kia Nurse suffered an ACL injury during the 2021 WNBA playoffs against the Las Vegas Aces in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The injury kept her out of the 2022 season entirely as she continued her rehab.
She's back in the WNBA this season though fresh off signing with the Storm as a free agent in the offseason. She's played in each of the Storm's first six games of the season and has provided a veteran presence for a team that's very young and inexperienced. While she's working her way back to full game speed, she's grateful to be back on the court.
“It took a couple of weeks to kind of get used to the load of having practice everyday again and the intensity, but it's been good, I've responded really well to everything,” Nurse said. “It's just different with a warmup phase and treatment phase and going into the treatment room and doing a lot of cautionary stuff just to make sure that I stay good. That's been a bit of an adjustment and having that kind of phase and schedule. I'm very routine-based so once that routine is set, I'm pretty good at that.”
Although this is Kia Nurse's first time back on a WNBA court, it's actually not her first time on a basketball court since the ACL injury. Back in the fall, Nurse participated in the FIBA World Cup in Australia for the Canadian national team. A native of Ontario, she's been playing for the national team since 2012 and has taken part in both the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
With her rehab progressing, playing in the World Cup seemed like an obvious choice to get reacclimated to the basketball court. Nurse took on a bigger role for Team Canada than she had most recently in the WNBA. Being trusted as more of a scoring threat with the ball in her hands, Nurse averaged 11.0 points per game on 41.3 percent shooting from the field and 35.3 percent shooting from the three-point line.
Welcome back, Kia Nurse! pic.twitter.com/PhqiWjNGj9
— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) September 22, 2022
She looked more like the player she was during her time with the New York Liberty when she was a double-digit scorer and was named an All-Star. While it was good to get back on the court, there were still times when Kia Nurse felt the lingering effects from her injury. But having played in eight games in ten days during the World Cup and on a minutes restriction allowed her to avoid going through the same restrictions to start the WNBA season.
“The ACL process is so interesting because at the end of it you literally feel like you're ready to go back out and play and just go back to what you were doing, playing 25 minutes per game or whatever you're playing, and you're not actually allowed to do that,” Nurse said. “I thought that was really helpful for me to be able to get back into it. My role at Team Canada for the last 11 years that I played with them has been to be more of a primary scorer, be a focal point of the offense, so I was nervous to come back and have to go into that role right away. But it was great to get my footing back.”
“Every game I got better, my process mentality got better of understanding where I wanted to be. You have to adjust as a player to the fact that you're different. . .my body is different than what it was. I had way more time to work on midrange games and different shot processes and footwork. Getting used to the newer version of yourself is something, but I was proud of myself for being able to get through that. . .and grateful for that experience because it gave me the confidence to go back home, to my offseason and really get moving back into things.”
Entering the 2023 WNBA offseason, she found herself in unfamiliar territory. Not only was Kia Nurse coming off a major ACL injury, she was also set to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent. After spending the first three years of her career with the Liberty, she was traded to the Phoenix Mercury in 2021. She actually hit free agency after that season, but despite the injury the Mercury decided to re-sign her.
This time around, she didn't quite know what her next step was going to be. She had changed representation and hired Bernie Lee of Thread Sports Management. Lee currently represents several big name NBA players such as Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons and Nurse became his first WNBA client. They held conversations leading up to free agency regarding what realistically Kia Nurse wanted this season in terms of role and situation coming off an ACL injury.
She ultimately settled on the Seattle Storm, a team in the midst of a shakeup. The Storm had lost franchise cornerstone Breanna Stewart to the Liberty in free agency and Sue Bird to retirement. With a roster full of youth an inexperience, it was an interesting choice for a more veteran player capable of helping a contending team. But Nurse saw an opportunity to not only help guide a young Storm team, but for her to be able to take on a similar role to Team Canada and show she's fully recovered.
FIVE THREE'S FOR KIA NURSE 🔥
No heat check needed for @KayNurse11 as she throws down her fifth triple of the night to put the Storm within 7 with 2:43 left in the fourth
— WNBA (@WNBA) May 27, 2023
“Seattle was an intriguing one for me because there were a lot of changes, a lot of new faces here and it was going to be a challenge. But I love a good challenge. . .but also have the opportunity to step into a bigger role than I've played the last couple of years,” Nurse said. “That was exciting for me, to be able to come here and have a little bit of freedom on the offensive end and really get back to the level I was playing at, but even better. . .a lot of it was just having an opportunity to come back and having the space to do that.”
Through six games so far for the Storm, Nurse has been averaging 6.0 points per game, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists with shooting splits of 30 percent from the field, 36 percent from the three-point line and 100 percent from the free-throw line. She's taking a little over four attempts from three-point range and has been particularly adept at the pull-up three in transition.
— espnW (@espnW) May 31, 2023
What stands out the most though is her 23.8 minutes per game. Nurse has averaged around 26.2 minutes per game throughout her career and she's not too far off that mark. While getting used to the everyday grind of the regular season is still going to be a work in progress, Nurse has shown that she is still capable of being an impact player in the WNBA.
“One of the things I've tried to stay really solid with is that part of my game is being a glue player out there. Trying to be solid on both ends of the floor, being somebody who communicates a ton on the defensive end to make sure my teammates know where they're going, understand the schemes and when we get into the little huddles, maybe a quick reminder about what the scheme is,” Nurse said. “Being the glue is big piece of what I try to do and be solid on both sides and knock down the three-ball. . .I'm really focused on making sure that I use my voice leadership-wise. I'm old, on this team I'm old now. Using those experiences I have and trying to keep things together. If it doesn't show up on the stat-sheet, I will do what I can to make sure that I'm effecting the game in other ways that keeps us within the game and gives us opportunities to be successful.”