Bird, Jackson Honored to Start All-Star Game
Near the conclusion of a trying road trip, the Seattle Storm got great news Thursday when a pair of Storm players, guard Sue Bird and forward Lauren Jackson, were named Western Conference starters for next week's All-Star Game.
For Bird, this is beginning to become routine. She has been voted a starter for all three All-Star Games played during her WNBA career (no All-Star Game was held last summer because of the Athens Olympics). That shouldn't be taken to mean that Bird takes the support for granted.
"It's a huge compliment to be voted a starter," says Bird. "It's something that I would never take for granted."
In the end, Jackson finished more than 20,000 votes better than Holdsclaw. She was never worried because she counted on the support of Storm fans.
"I knew that the Seattle votes hadn't gone in," she says. "They had a ton of votes still coming."
Indeed they did. Over the final 36 hours of balloting, which included the Storm's win over the Connecticut Sun at KeyArena, fans reportedly filled out 10,000 ballots. Storm fans also worked to ensure their favorite players would be starting by filling out ballots at viewing parties for away games hosted by Theatre Off Jackson.
"I obviously have to thank all those Seattle fans for stuffing those ballots when they could," says Bird. "I know we only had a couple of home games last month, but they did a great job getting both Lauren and I in there. It's a good testament to how supportive our fans are."
Jackson also got a boost from the home fans in Australia as she became the second Aussie to start in the All-Star Game, joining former Phoenix Mercury guard Michele Timms. (Brazilian Arcain and Portuguese guard Ticha Penicheiro of Sacramento are the other international players to be voted in.)
"I feel honored, because I think that a lot of people from my country voted a lot," says Jackson. "I heard that there was a huge surge of voters from Australia online, which means the world to me. More than anything, for my country, it's awesome for my fans in Australia."
With the Storm in the midst of its most difficult stretch of the season and fighting for position in the competitive Western Conference, Jackson knew she couldn't worry too much
"I'm really, really honored to make it, but it wasn't something that I was going to focus on," says Jackson. "I feel like at the moment we've got so much more to focus on within this team and winning and losing that it wasn't one of my main priorities."
As it was in 2003, the All-Star Game will be a homecoming for Bird. Then, the game was being played at Madison Square Garden in New York (last year, The Game at Radio City was also played in New York). This year, the All-Star Game moves to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. She'll be teaming in the backcourt with fellow UConn alum Diana Taurasi.
"D's obviously someone I'm really comfortable playing with, so it should be fun," says Bird.
With the WNBA's best and brightest gathered at the Mohegan Sun for the weekend, Bird expects a fun time throughout.
"The casino is built for good shows," she says. "I think it will be a really good time, really a good weekend for the players, the fans, everyone."
Jackson agrees, and is taking a light-hearted attitude to Connecticut.
"It is downtime for us, so I'm not going to take it too seriously, but it's a game and I'll go out there and have fun with my friends," she says.
Bird and Jackson will be coached in Connecticut by Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan by virtue of the Storm's Western Conference Championship. It's Donovan's second trip to the All-Star Game; she coached the East in 2002 and is the first person to coach both conferences in the All-Star Game.
"There's no question in my mind Betty Lennox is one of the best guards in this league," Donovan said before the Storm's road trip. "Hopefully people identify that we're a good team and a lot of it has to do with Betty's performance this year."