Aaron Last/Storm Photos
Jackson Rejoins Storm for Practice
As the Seattle Storm returned to the practice court Monday for the final week of training camp, it was with a very welcome familiar face back on the floor. A day after making the 18-hour flight from her native Australia to Seattle, Lauren Jackson went through her first practice of the 2009 season and played with her Storm teammates for the first time since joining her Australian National Team last July to prepare for the Beijing Olympics.
"I think I was running on plane fumes today," Jackson said after her first practice. "I can't believe I survived. It was great to be out there."
"I thought she looked good," observed Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "I thought she looked very live. We're a better team with her on the floor, no question about it.
"I'm a lot better coach than I was yesterday."
Agler found that out the hard way last summer. Initially anticipating being without Jackson for the five games prior to the Olympic break so she could train with her national team, the Storm had to play without Jackson the duration of the 2008 season when she had to undergo surgery on her right ankle following the gold-medal game.
Never missing Jackson or feeling sorry for themselves, the Storm rallied to go 8-5 the remainder of the regular season and took the Los Angeles Sparks the distance in the opening round of the playoffs before bowing out. Still, there was no doubt the Storm missed the two-time MVP.
Jackson now feels healthy, having played the entire season in Russia and overcoming initial difficulty returning from the surgery. She also feels recharged mentally after taking a month off between the end of her overseas campaign and arriving in training camp.
"Coming back from injury was difficult this year," said Jackson. "It was harder than what I imagined it would be. Being back here, I wanted to prepare for the season and get mentally right. I think Russia was good for that. I got back to a point where my body was physically fit and I was able to get prepared physically. Then going home, I was able to focus on the mental side of it and working to stay motivated."
While at home in native Australia, Jackson also completed her decision to re-sign with the Storm as an unrestricted free agent. She reiterated Monday that returning to the Storm was the best decision she has ever made, and described how comfortable she feels to be back in Seattle.
"It feels like I didn't go through any of it," said Jackson of the decision-making process. "Being back here is so familiar. Like I've said a million times before, this is my second home. I don't think I could have been anywhere else."
Now that Jackson has recommitted to the Storm, the focus is back on basketball. Agler reviewed the team's offense on Monday, helping Jackson get up to speed after missing the first two weeks of practice. She won't be at full speed on the offense by the time the Storm tips off the regular season in Saturday, though Agler is unconcerned about Jackson's ability to contribute.
For Jackson's part, she enjoyed her first practice of the season.
"I love playing for Brian and playing with the system, so it was fun to get back out there and give it a go," she said. "Everyone's playing really well and everyone's sort of embraced their role. I think people are getting better and better each year. Obviously now a lot of our young players are getting older, and we've got a lot more experience and depth."
Jackson's arrival to Storm training camp was delayed because she was participating in the wedding of Storm teammate Suzy Batkovic-Brown over the weekend. Jackson was maid of honor as part of a wedding party that also included Aussie basketball stars Trish Fallon and Penny Taylor.
"It was fun," she said. "It was an awesome wedding. Suzy looked like an angel. She was beautiful."
The role of maid of honor did require Jackson to deal with Batkovic-Brown's pre-wedding jitters.
"Suzy was a stressbag on Saturday," said Jackson. "She went shopping. I just sat back and kept my mouth shut as much as possible and let her do the stressing on her own. I think the other couple of girls are better at that than I am. I don't know. I'm never getting married."
"I can't even see the pitch right now," Jackson explained. "All I can see is how I feel after practice."