Storm Will Move Forward Without Jackson

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Jackson to Undergo Ankle Surgery
Storm Can Thrive Without Jackson
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Kevin Pelton, | August 20, 2008
The day after the Australian Olympic Committee announced that Seattle Storm forward Lauren Jackson will undergo surgery on her right ankle after the Olympics, sidelining her for 4-6 weeks while the WNBA resumes play, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler wasn't lamenting the loss of the two-time league MVP. Instead, Agler and the rest of the Storm are focused on moving forward without Jackson.

"We've been playing the last six-plus weeks without Lauren in practice and in games," Agler said, "so we have some experience in this situation."

Camille Little played a key role in the Storm going 3-2 without Lauren Jackson before the Olympic break.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
Not only experience, but success. Jackson's five-game absence prior to the Olympic break as she returned to Australia early to practice with her national team was a major concern because the Storm had gone 1-10 playing without Jackson from 2003 through 2007. This year's team, however, has shown enough depth to overcome Jackson's loss. Even despite playing four out of five games on the road, a sore spot even with Jackson in the lineup, and facing injuries to starters Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes, the Storm went 3-2 in the stretch to go into the Olympic break.

"I think we've got a group of players on this team that are very confident people," said Agler. "They're gaining confidence each day as they play together. They've tried to play as well as they can collectively at the defensive end and they're competitors. I think they just go out each day and try and get better or, if it's a game situation, try to play well and take each possession as it comes."

During Jackson's pre-Olympics absence, the Storm replaced her production by committee. Camille Little, Jackson's replacement in the starting lineup, provided the team excellent production at both ends, averaging 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. Little was one of seven Storm players who improved upon their season scoring average during the five-game stretch. Agler anticipates using a similar rotation after the break.

Players will have to continue to step up as the Storm fights to secure a playoff berth and for positioning in the Western Conference. With eight games left on the schedule, five of them on the road, the Storm has a magic number of six to clinch a playoff berth. The team's strong finish to the pre-Olympic portion of the schedule has given the Storm a 2.5-game cushion over Los Angeles and Sacramento, tied for third, with San Antonio a half-game ahead in first place in the West.

"We've got work to do yet," explained Agler. "I'm sort of taking the approach of not worrying about what's happened but what we've got ahead of us and what we've got to prep for. That's what our focus is right now."

The Storm could potentially add another post player for depth in Jackson's absence. Agler said the team was "exploring all options" in terms of roster moves. Tomorrow is the WNBA's trade deadline, though the Storm could sign a free agent at any point.

Jackson's hope is to rehab following the surgery and rejoin the Storm in the midst of a playoff run, giving the team a major lift. She's shared with Agler her hope to return sooner than the typical 4-6 week timeline following arthroscopic ankle surgery, though the Storm can't bank on an early return.

"I think that's Lauren," said Agler. "I think she's a very confident person, she wants to help our team. You know she's going to do everything she can to make it happen. Whether it can happen, that's debatable.

"I don't think it's anything you can count on. What you've got to count on is the people that you have on your team that are healthy to play. She's part of that team. We're going to support her in that decision and we're going to support her in her rehab and let things play out from there."