Jackson Makes it Official
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | March 11, 2010
For Lauren Jackson, re-signing with the Seattle Storm on a multi-year contract on Thursday is not a big deal. Jackson had already given her word at the end of the 2009 Storm season that she would return to the Storm as an unrestricted free agent and had no interest in looking elsewhere. Signing the contract simply makes it official.
"I don't feel any relief because it was always going to happen," Jackson said by phone from Australia. "Brian (Agler) knew it, everyone knew it. I'd committed a long time ago. Now it's just looking forward to the next four or five months. The last four or five months I've been spending with the (Canberra) Capitals and now it's a different season, time to move on. I think that's more what it means at the moment - moving on to the next phase."
Having signed in November to rejoin the Capitals and play at home in Australia, Jackson's focus on the team meant she wanted to wait until the end of the WNBL season to sign her new Storm contract.
"In Australia, there's been so much hype about me playing with the Capitals again and the playoffs and then the final, it wasn't fair to my teammates or the Capitals or anyone, really, if I took the focus off what we had achieved," Jackson explained. "That's why I wanted to wait. When I'm in season, I'd rather be focused on what I'm doing right now. At that point in time, the Capitals were the most important thing, so I had to focus on them."
Canberra's season ended with Saturday's WNBL Grand Final, where the Capitals upset Bulleen 75-70 on the road to win Jackson's sixth career WNBL championship. After posting 18 points and 13 rebounds, Jackson was named MVP, but it was Canberra's teamwork and contributions from multiple starters that translated into the victory.
"It was awesome," she said. "I don't think that I deserved the MVP for the game. My teammates like Natalie Hurst and Carly Wilson and Abby Bishop and Marianna Tolo who stepped up and made big plays were just unbelievable. It was a battle to win that game. There's been a lot of stuff that's happened personally with a lot of players on our team and the adversity we've all had to handle. To come out and play for each other was awesome. I haven't had so much fun playing with a group of girls in a long, long time. That was just the best and it meant a lot to win with them and for them."
Winning a championship capped an offseason that saw Jackson get a chance to spend an extended period at home for the first time in years. Her busy schedule, split between the WNBA and playing in first Korea and later Russia, had left relatively little time for friends and family. Returning to Australia proved to be the silver lining of a frustrating back injury that ended Jackson's WNBA season and kept her out through the middle of December.
"It was hard," she said of being sidelined for three and a half months. "It definitely made me reevaluate some things - what I really want to achieve the second half of my career. I think it made me better on court and off court. I think I needed the break. It was great to be able to get home and be with my family. I think this has been probably the best outcome of the injury is just being able to be at home. I needed it, I think."
After returning to the court, Jackson never missed any time because of her back despite what she describes as a strenuous training regimen under former Storm assistant coach Carrie Graf, one that should prepare her for the 2010 WNBA season.
"A lot of people sort of said to me, 'It's an easier season for you.' In all honesty, it wasn't," Jackson said. "Graffy, the way that she trains us, was so much harder than anything that I've done. They're long sessions and they're quite physically taxing. I said to her after one media interview, 'Graffy, this isn't a break. There's nothing breakish about this,' because we're actually training and spending more time on the court than I do anywhere. And probably more of a focus in the gym, lifting, things like that as well.
"I think more the mental break for me has been just being at home, being with my family. The on-court stuff was probably more taxing than what it is in Europe. I think that's probably a good thing coming into the next WNBA season because I'm fit and ready to go. Especially after the break I'm going to get now, I think it's definitely good."
Over the next month and half, Jackson has training camp scheduled with the Australian Opals National Team at the end of March. There are also promotional commitments to attend to, but Jackson wants to make sure to spend some time relaxing at the beach and with her family before coming to Seattle.
Once upon a time, that was a trip Jackson - young and a stranger to Seattle - dreaded making. As she enters her 10th season (believe it or not), Seattle now holds a special place in Jackson's heart.
"It seems like just yesterday I was drafted there and playing with Lin (Dunn) and being a new kid on the block," she recalled. "I'm definitely one of the veterans now, which is bizarre. I've just had such a great time over there the years have flown. I hope I have a few more left in me. It is sort of hard to believe I've been there that long.
"I remember thinking to myself, 'I can't do this. I can only get through one season.' It was too hard. Everything seemed too big and too new. Over the years, Seattle's become my second home. Over the last four or five years, it's sort of been where I've based myself because I've been in Europe as well and Korea. It's definitely grown on me a lot and the people there have been great. I don't think I could have ever seen my career turning out like this or the affiliation that I have with Seattle. It's been great and I have really enjoyed the experience, and hopefully I'll enjoy it for a while yet."
Jackson demonstrated her commitment to the Storm by choosing to sign a multi-year contract, just the second time in her career she has done so.
"I haven't really foreseen myself going anywhere else," Jackson said. "There was last year, of course, but it was very briefly thought. Signing a multi-year deal is great, and obviously that security that comes with it. I don't think that I'll be going anywhere else to play in America, especially where I am in my career right now and everything Seattle has given me as a player. I've really appreciated it. That's where I want to end my career as a player."