2008 in Review: Lauren Jackson
Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | November 25, 2008
The 2008 season started with Lauren Jackson as the WNBA's reigning MVP and ended with her watching from the sidelines.
Having returned from Russia just in time for the start of the regular season, Jackson started the year in something of a shooting slump. In the early going, she was not as consistent as during her MVP 2007 campaign, following up a 28-point outing against San Antonio with her first healthy single-digit game in nearly two years on June 1 against Houston (Jackson had six points on 1-of-9 shooting but did pull down 13 rebounds). Before that, Jackson had her first 30-point game of 2008 on May 22 at Phoenix, needing just 19 shots to reach the mark in the Storm's come-from-behind victory.
Jackson began to get locked in after the rough outing against the Comets, scoring at least 18 points in each of the next eight games. On June 11 against Phoenix, she pulled down a season-high 14 rebounds for her first double-double of 2008.
As the Storm bottomed out at 8-7 June 24 in Los Angeles, Jackson had another rough night. She scored 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting in the Storm's 76-62 loss. Just as the team began to turn things around, Jackson found another gear early in the month of July. She topped 30 points in consecutive games, putting up 33 in 31 minutes on July 3 against New York and an uber-efficient 34 points in 26 minutes on 15-of-22 shooting on July 5 against Minnesota. The latter performance left Jackson one point shy of her career high for regulation scoring and the Storm's record.
On July 12, the Storm hosted Los Angeles in a rematch. Again, Jackson had a tough time scoring against the Sparks posts, shooting 4-of-13 from the field. Still, she managed to control the game at the defensive end, blocking five shots and helping hold eventual MVP Candace Parker to 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting. As a team, Los Angeles shot 34.0 percent and managed just 52 points.
The game was Jackson's last before leaving the Storm to join the Australian Opals National Team for training camp. Having won the 2006 World Championships, the Opals gathered for the Beijing Olympics with their best chance yet of upsetting the U.S.A. and claiming the gold Jackson has coveted since her childhood. During training, those hopes were dealt a major blow when Jackson saw a bone spur in her right ankle break off and lodge in the joint, creating pain and swelling. She played through the injury, but was not her usual self.
On Aug. 19, Jackson revealed that she could play on the ankle no more following the Olympics and would have to undergo surgery at their conclusion, sidelining her through the WNBA Finals. With Jackson and fellow star Penny Taylor (sprained ankle) at less than full strength, Australia was blown out in the gold-medal game, settling instead for Jackson's third straight silver medal.
Five days later, Jackson underwent surgery in her native Australia. After beginning rehab, she rejoined the Storm in time for the end of the regular season. With teammates stepping up their play, the team was able to survive Jackson's absence to secure home-court advantage in the postseason, spurring hope the team could advance far enough to get Jackson back in the lineup.
Jackson's status became a storyline during the playoff matchup with Los Angeles when Sparks Head Coach Michael Cooper maintained before and after Game 1 that he fully expected Jackson to play during the series. Lo and behold, after the frustrating opening loss to the Sparks, Jackson tried to speed up the timetable on her comeback, testing the ankle before Game 2. It did not respond, and she could only watch as the Storm lost the series in three games.
It is a testament to Jackson's phenomenal success and consistency that her performance before the injury could be viewed as something of a down year. With the Storm having added better rebounders on the wings, Jackson's average of 7.0 rebounds per game was her lowest since 2004. The other big difference was from downtown. Jackson shot 29.5 percent from downtown, down from 40.2 percent and 37.7 percent the previous two seasons. That was likely a fluke, given Jackson was enjoying her best season at the free-throw line, making 93.4 percent to rank second in the league.
Despite her season being shortened by injury, Jackson was still named to the All-WNBA Second Team - a first for her after five consecutive appearances on the First Team - as well as the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team.
At the season's conclusion, Jackson saw the three-year contract she signed in 2006 come to an end. Because the Storm used its core-player designation on Sue Bird and the league now limits teams to one core player, Jackson will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time. In her exit interview with the media, Jackson professed her desire to step away before making a decision. However, her fondness for the city of Seattle and her teammates and coaches figure to give the Storm a major advantage.
Storm Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel Brian Agler wants to take no chances with Jackson's free agency. He plans to be in Moscow on Dec. 15, the first day teams can negotiate with players, to reiterate her importance to the Storm's future.
2008 Photo Gallery
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