SEATTLE — The Storm temporarily severed ties with Breanna Stewart and placed its injured star on the suspended list before finalizing its 2019 roster Thursday afternoon.
Soon after, the WNBA hired the reigning MVP as a league ambassador in a move that's unprecedented in recent history.
Stewart is believed to be the first active player to serve in such a role and the four-year veteran will be compensated by the league in excess of her base salary, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
The fourth-year veteran was expected to make $64,538 from the Storm, according to a database of WNBA salaries compiled by High Post Hoops.
WNBA teams, which must carry a minimum of 11 players and a maximum of 12, cannot replace injured players without releasing someone.
Stewart underwent surgery on April 18 to repair a torn Achilles and will miss the 2019 season.
Placing her on the suspended list removed her salary from the Storm's payroll and created an extra spot on the roster for Anriel Howard, a promising rookie forward who was selected 24th in the second round by Seattle in last month's WNBA draft.
"We like her a lot because she's a powerful player who can do a lot of things," interim coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "It's just a matter of her getting used to our game because I think she played a little out of position in college.
"She's more of a 2/3 (shooting guard/small forward) and I think she was in the post before. So for her, it's getting used to defending more on the perimeter and shooting the 3."
After signing free-agent guard Shavonte Zellous in the offseason, the Storm weren't expecting to add anyone else to a veteran squad that brings back 11 players from last year's team that won the WNBA championship.
Seattle selected 19-year-old Australian forward Ezi Magbegor in the first round of the WNBA draft and elected to have her spend the year overseas because of their crowded roster.
Seattle opted not to add Sue Bird to the suspended list, which perhaps signals the 38-year-old point guard is hoping to return later this season after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur from her left knee.
Typical recovery time is 8 to 10 weeks, which could mean a return in late July or early August for Bird.
Down two All-Stars, the Storm needed some help on the bench and Howard, who averaged 16.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals last season at Mississippi State, displayed early promise in training camp.
The 5-foot-11 and 176-pound forward averaged 3.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 20.5 minutes during two preseason games.
Howard's spot on the team became apparent Wednesday when the Storm released training-camp invitee Teana Muldrow, a 6-1 forward who played in four games in the WNBA last season including three with Seattle.
On Wednesday, the Storm also included Macy Miller, Presley Hudson and Recee Caldwell in its final cuts.
Otherwise there were few surprises among the Storm's final roster that includes Jewell Loyd, Jordin Canada, Zellous, Sami Whitcomb and Bird in the backcourt.
Natasha Howard, Crystal Langhorne, Alysha Clark, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Courtney Paris, Mercedes Russell and Howard round out the frontcourt.
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