RON HOWARD: Good afternoon and welcome to the 2007 WNBA Finals and today's press conference. We'll begin the press conference with remarks from WNBA President, Donna Orender, who will make a short presentation to Lauren Jackson.
DONNA ORENDER: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us this evening for the opening game of the 2007 WNBA Finals.
2007 has been a very exciting season for all of us, I'm sure that you would concur. It's been led by really exceptional play. The on court performances from players like Tamika Catchings, Becky Hammon, Deanna Nolan, the Phoenix triumvirate of Pondexter, Taurasi, and Taylor, all of them have had outstanding seasons. The remarkable standard of play that these women have established is truly inspiring and it illustrates just how bright the future is for the WNBA as our talent continues to get better and deeper each and every year.
I have to tell you that I'm proud of the many deserving candidates for the 2007 WNBA most valuable player, but none more so than Seattle Storm's Miss Lauren Jackson.
Not only did see she lead the league in scoring for the third time in her career, averaging 23.8 points per game, but she increased her career average by more than five points per game.
She led the league in rebounding and averaging a career best 9.7 rebounds per game and ranked a top the league in double doubles with 17, thereby contributing to her being Western Conference Player of the Week a record five times.
On July 27 she became the youngest player in WNBA history to reach the 4,000 point plateau.
There are many nights that I would sit home on my couch with my sons, watching Lauren play and say, "I just can't believe she did that and that and that." And then I tell her, "Lauren, you're amazing." And she says, "You have to say that." I said, "No, I say it because I mean it."
I will tell you that her ferocity on the court is legendary. But it belies a very thoughtful, rather shy young woman who truly cares about giving back and who I believe and everyone in the league believes will make even greater contributions before her career is over.
I am truly honored to present and introduce to you the 2007 WNBA Most Valuable Player from the Seattle Storm, Lauren Jackson.
LAUREN JACKSON: Thank you very much, Donna, for your kind words. Thank you, I just, I can't believe I'm here I'm completely, I'm honored, flattered, at what you said.
And I just, it's been unbelievable year for me personally. I'm sorry that our team isn't in the Finals, but I think the two best teams are definitely out there. So it's a little bit bittersweet, but definitely I'm very happy and honored to be here right now and I really appreciate everything that the WNBA has done for me personally and for the players in the league.
So thank you very much and yes, I'm honored to be here. And very excited. So thanks.
RON HOWARD: We'll open the floor to questions.
Q. How do you feel about your team and your progress with the team to possibly get deeper in the playoffs and get to the Finals next season?
LAUREN JACKSON: I think our team definitely needs to make some serious changes. We have definitely been feeling mediocre for the last three years since we won the championship. So I know that the team and the coaching staff are definitely looking at different ways to help us improve and to help us go deeper into the playoffs next year. But like I said we did, with what we we made the playoffs, we did achieve one goal, obviously. But it would definitely be nicer to be further down the track next year. So, but, yeah, hopefully next year it will be a different scenario.
Q. Are you a little surprised that you won this big award over someone like Becky Hammon and how do you define MVP, do you define it as the most important player in the league or the one that maybe the team can least afford to lose?
LAUREN JACKSON: I don't know. I think there's been a lot of debate about that and honestly I really, I can't answer that. I think it's how people feel, how the voters feel, ultimately Becky Hammon has been unbelievable this year, as has Deanna Nolan and Diana Taurasi, there's some unbelievable players in this league and I feel honored to be here and to have gotten the award. People vote how they feel the player impacts on the team and in the league and clearly this year it was my turn, so I'm just, like I said, I feel honored to be here.
Q. First off, just if you can talk about personally how gratifying it's been as much pain as you were in last year to play fairly healthy and secondly with all the uncertainty with Seattle with the Olympics next year, are we sure to see you in the WNBA next year?
LAUREN JACKSON: I haven't made like a flat out decision yet. Like I said for the last seven years the WNBA has been without a doubt the best league in the world and for me to be at my best I have to be playing here. So that definitely comes into play when next season is coming into my head.
Last year was a hard year because I was so injured and I couldn't practice at all. But this year I came in fit and healthy and I had the support, I had a great team, great teammates and just the organization, the Seattle organization was wonderful and just backed me pretty much throughout the year. Yeah, I was just fortunate to be as successful as I was within the team situation. Like I said, unfortunately it was unfortunate that we didn't make it any further through the playoffs but I think the best teams definitely got to the playoffs and it's been the best playoff series in WNBA history. So I'm sure it's going to be an amazing final series.
Q. What do you expect to see in this final series?
LAUREN JACKSON: I think watching Detroit play and then obviously watching Phoenix play, I think it's going to be a dog fight. I think it's going to be, there's going to be bruises, there's going to be a lot of different things happening throughout the game. But ultimately I think you're going to see very skilled basketball players playing the best basketball of their lives. I know that the Phoenix girls, Penny and Cappie and Diana, all those guys are going to be giving it a hundred percent. Cappie Pondexter whose been playing out of her mind right now. They're going to be running up and down the court and trying to win. And I know Detroit has so much passion and energy it's going to be exciting. I'm excited to watch it.
Q. What does it mean when a player like Cappie isn't on one of those top two teams?
LAUREN JACKSON: It means that the WNBA has got a lot of talent within the league. And I think Cappie's definitely excelled during the playoff series. So Cappie, I'm sure she's out there to prove something right now and she's been unbelievable the last two series. So it's just going to be exciting to watch her and Deanna Nolan. I think that to me is going to be the best matchup.
Q. Who is your pick to win the Finals?
LAUREN JACKSON: My pick? I'm not an analyst. I want to say, I really want to see the championship go back to the west, so I'm going to go with Phoenix. And I think they have got unbelievable talent and chemistry at the moment and I think that they can do it. But Detroit are great also, so.
(Laughter.) Whoever you guys want to win, I'm down for.
(Laughter.) I'm trying to be diplomatic.
Q. You won the Most Valuable Player, obviously Penny and Snelly are both in the Finals and just the, I guess if you can talk about the Australian influence in this league and especially this year with just the three of you, four of you guys impacting the WNBA?
LAUREN JACKSON: Definitely the Australian contingent this year has been phenomenal. I think going home this year after our little Australian tournament versus USA is going to be unbelievable. I just can't wait to walk into the airport and know that the media at home finally are going to recognize us for being special. I think that even with the World Championship last year I don't know whether we got as much recognition as we probably deserved, but I know that people stand up and go, "Wow, this has happened in the WNBA." And that's the one thing about the WNBA that is so fantastic is that wherever you are in the world this is basically the pedestal. If you play here, then that's how you're rated.
And we're going to walk back into that airport knowing that we have definitely dominated. We'll have had an opportunity to dominate the WNBA this year. And I'm so proud of Penny and Tully and Belinda and my teammates, it's fantastic.
Q. For your career, Most Valuable Player, what does that mean to you personally? Does that cap the WNBA Championship, is that one of the top goals in your playing career?
LAUREN JACKSON: No, I think being in a team sport like your focus is always going to be winning. And I'm sure every Most Valuable Player has said, "I just wish that we would have been in the championship or won the championship."
I wish that we would have been here. But unfortunately, like I said, unfortunately, we're not. And nothing can beat the championship we won in Seattle. That was fantastic. It was an amazing feeling. And nothing will ever cap that. But this is pretty close.
Q. I know you said obviously the team is the most important, but this year you not only won the Most Valuable Player, but also the top defensive player. And what does that mean to you in terms of your you're always trying to get better and that is something I believe you have never won before?
LAUREN JACKSON: Yeah, I've never even had anyone acknowledge my defense in my life, like coaches or anyone. So I think that for me was pretty special. And that's something I will never forget. That's definitely up there.
I think just not being injured put me in a position to play better and train better and practice a lot more. Which ultimately got me here, which is fairly exciting.
RON HOWARD: Thank you very much. We will close the press conference with a photo opportunity again with Lauren and Donna.