Catching Up With Storm Stars
Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird
WNBA luminaries Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird have been playing together in Seattle since 2002.
|Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images|
With the Storm off to a fantastic 3-0 start and all of their multitude of stars contributing, we spoke recently with reigning MVP Lauren Jackson and All-Star point guard Sue Bird to discuss the difference in Seattle in 2008.
How did you feel when you found out the Storm were not only getting new owners but that the team was definitively staying in Seattle?
LJ: "I was so happy. Seattle has a wonderful fan base and it would have been a shame to see everything that we have worked for and achieved be thrown away. Seattle is an amazing city and I'm so proud to play for the Storm. The new ownership also offers another wave of excitement. Having a group of women who are passionate about our sport taking the lead is inspirational."
SB: "I was very excited when I heard the Storm would be staying in Seattle. Our new owners are very passionate about women's basketball and I truly believe this team belongs here. Our fan base is amazing and deserves to see this franchise continue to grow. On a more personal level, I really like living and playing in Seattle so I really couldn't be happier."
Were you surprised that Anne Donovan decided to resign as Storm coach?
LJ: "I was as surprised as the next person, but I fully support any decision she makes. I know she won't be out of the league for long, because a coach with her credentials is needed in our league. I'm happy for her."
SB: "The initial news definitely came as a surprise. I didn't even know she was thinking about resigning but that's a very personal decision and I'm sure it was a difficult one as well. Anne will be missed but I still get to play for her with USA Basketball, so I look forward to that."
SB: "I was very excited when I heard about all the new additions to our team. Our potential starting lineup has WNBA championship experience, Olympic experience and All-Star experience. The value in that alone speaks for itself but I also know all of these women very well off the court and the reasons I'm looking forward to being on this team go beyond the basketball. We have an opportunity to do something special and while it will be hard and full of challenges, I know it'll be a fun year regardless."
LJ: "Again, I was very happy. The three of them bring the sort of depth, experience and talent we need. I am so excited to play with these women, playing with superstars of their caliber is a great feeling."
The Storm now have three former Defensive Players of the Year between you (Lauren), Griffith and Swoopes. Do you think the Storm are now capable of being one of the better defensive teams? And will Griffith's presence in the post and Sheryl's on the perimeter change the way you play defense?
LJ: "I'm sure it will change the way we play defense. Sheryl and Yo bring so many different things to our team. Their experience and smarts alone will make our team a much better, well-rounded team and I know that I will learn from them and also find comfort in knowing that they have my back! I'm so glad I get to play with them rather than against them."
Sue, you are the one person on the team who has played extensively with Lauren as well as with Cash, Griffith and Swoopes. How long do you think it will take for all of you to get in sync on the court?
SB: "Like I said earlier, our team has so much experience and we've all had to take on different roles with the different teams we've played on. With this comes a certain maturity and because of that I don't think it will take much time at all to get in sync. It's all about everyone figuring out their role and knowing what they need to do to help make this team successful."
Lauren, you are the only big-name Aussie that plans to play most of the WNBA season. What factors made you decide to play in the States prior to the Olympics instead of training back home in Australia with your teammates?
LJ: "There are a few different factors but the biggest one is that Seattle has been my second home now for eight seasons and I feel a great sense of loyalty to the team. I also feel like the best preparation I can have for the Olympics is to be playing against the best players in the world, playing day in and day out and staying fit. There have been so many positive changes to our club in the last six months, I feel like walking away right now would be something that I would regret in the future."
SB: "Lauren is an unbelievable player and I think we are all fortunate to be able to play with her. She is playing some of her best basketball right now and I'm extremely happy she decided to come back to the WNBA this summer. I know some of her Aussie teammates decided not to return, but I think that for Lauren, this is the best preparation there is for the Olympics. Like she said, you are going against the best in the world every night and it forces you to raise your level of play. Lauren likes this challenge and has fun along the way. She'll leave us a little early to train with her national team before Beijing and I'm sure that will leave them enough time to get ready."
Sheryl, Swin, Yolanda and you both have all won WNBA titles. Between the trades, free agent signings and the draft, do you believe the Storm have all the pieces necessary to return to the Finals and win your second championship in 2008?
LJ: "I think so. The league has become so strong the last few years
and with teams like Phoenix, L.A. and San Antonio just going from strength to
strength, it's hard to predict what's going to happen. I will say though that
we are on the right path and the team is starting to resemble that of a strong
championship team. I can't wait to get back."
SB: "I agree. When you look at our entire roster, I do feel as if we have all the pieces to get another ring, but what you have on paper doesn't always matter. What matters is everyone taking ownership of this team and dedicating ourselves to getting better every day. There are too many great teams in this league to think anything will be easy. Our situation is different than some because we have a lot of new faces, including a new coach (Brian Agler) who brings with him a new system. Our success will depend on how easily we can adjust and learn. With that being said, I have confidence in this team and coaching staff and know its going to be an amazing season."