Jackson Almost Ready to Return

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | Aug. 18, 2011

When Lauren Jackson appeared dressed in her Seattle Storm warmups for Tuesday's game in Phoenix, it sparked speculation. Would Jackson be unexpectedly returning after hip surgery? Alas, no. Jackson wasn't yet cleared for game action, but could receive that word as soon as today after a doctor's visit to evaluate her rehabilitation progress.

"Hopefully, they clear me to play, which would be great," Jackson said after Thursday's practice.

Over the last week, Jackson has been increasing her involvement in the Storm's practice sessions, an important precursor to a return to the court. She has looked at times like the player who has won three MVPs, which is impressive so soon after surgery.

Lauren Jackson.
Aaron Last/Storm Photos

Jackson has been practicing with the Storm in preparation for her return.

"She's moving very well," observed Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "She's been working at it. She's done more than just rehab the hip. She's really gone back to work in terms of getting in shape and working on her skills. She's shot the ball a lot the last three or four weeks. It's been good."

More importantly, Jackson's hip has held up as she's ramped up her workload.

"I feel good," she said. "It's obviously different when you go out and play, but I feel pretty good."

That leads to cautious optimism that Jackson could be available for game duty soon. Since she is still not at 100 percent, the Storm will have to ease her into the lineup. Agler and the coaching staff are still considering whether to start Jackson or bring her off the bench, among other aspects of her return.

"That's part of the issue - is it better to get her playing when she's warm right after warmups?" said Agler. "Because it's easier to manage minutes when they don't start. She's going to have limited minutes. What that limit is, we're still gauging. If there's a plan on paper that I can give you, we don't have that, but there are a lot of generalities that we're discussing."

That the Storm has stayed afloat without Jackson over the last two months will help the Storm avoid overtaxing her. With Camille Little, Ashley Robinson and Le'coe Willingham all contributing in the post, the Storm doesn't need Jackson to play heavy minutes right away.

Agler anticipates using a four-player rotation in the frontcourt after Jackson's return, taking advantage of the confidence Robinson has built as a starter.

This is also a new scenario for Jackson. In the past, her long-term injuries with the Storm have ended her season. This is the first time she's rejoined the team after an extended absence at midseason. Being able to practice has helped her, but there will still be an adjustment as she syncs back up with her teammates.

"I really don't know," she said, asked what returning will be like. "I haven't been in this situation before. I guess I'm just going to go out there and have some fun with it. I definitely miss playing. I am looking forward to that."

Agler doesn't question how badly Jackson wants to return. He's seen that in the way she's worked diligently during the rehabilitation process.

"I sense Lauren being hungrier now than she was maybe earlier in the year," he said. "Sometimes, negative things get your attention. She went through it. Something was taken away from her. Now she's got the opportunity to get it back and I think she wants to take full advantage of it."

"It's hard watching," Jackson said. "I did everything to make sure that I get back early, so hopefully today we find out some good news."

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