Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | September 23, 2009
Last winter, Lauren Jackson needed nearly the entire offseason to make the decision to return to the Seattle Storm as an unrestricted free agent. This time around, Jackson needed just three days to declare that she will be back for 2010.
"I think I have to wait until January, but I would have signed now," Jackson told reporters after going through her exit interviews with Storm Head Coach Brian Agler and CEO Karen Bryant. Agler and Bryant had indicated their confidence that Jackson would re-sign with the Storm this offseason, when she will once again be an unrestricted free agent, and her excitement about the team's direction. Jackson amplified that position and added some clarity in terms of her plans.
"I'm going to sign for two years, but I plan to be here a lot longer." Aaron Last/Storm Photos
"I'm going to sign for two years," said Jackson, who spent this year playing on a one-year contract. "Having (Brian) as a coach has definitely been great, with Sue (Bird) and everyone on the team. I'm going to sign for two years, but I plan to be here a lot longer."
Indeed, Jackson reiterated her desire to retire as a member of the Storm, something that is still well down the road. In discussing the retirement of rival Lisa Leslie, whom she congratulated after the L.A. Sparks ended the Storm's season on Sunday, Jackson expressed the hope that she can leave the same legacy in Seattle that Leslie has in Los Angeles.
"I know for sure I'll be in Seattle the next few years," Jackson said. "Like I said, I want to finish my career out here, so as long as I can play. I'm going to play in Russia the next few years, see how that goes, and then after that I'll probably have to think about slowing down at some point - maybe I'll play back in Australia where it's not so full-on and then play WNBA."
For now, Jackson's main goal is getting healthy. While she had spoken publicly about the possibility of returning had the Storm advanced in the postseason, doctors would not have cleared her to play. A typical recovery period for the stress fracture Jackson suffered in her back is three months. Thursday will mark four weeks from her last game of the season. She'll continue waiting and go through the rehabilitation process back home in Australia now that the season is over.
"The first month and a half, I'm not meant to be running, on bikes, stretching, anything like that," Jackson said. "I guess by the time I get back I'll have to start rehabilitation and just trying to get it strong so it doesn't happen again."
The question for Jackson going forward is whether the L5 veterbra in which she has a stress fracture fuses back together. A bone scan will help determine whether that is happening as part of the healing process. If not, Jackson might have to undergo surgery to ensure that the stress fracture does not remain a problem going forward.
No one was more frustrated than Jackson that she could only sit and watch as the Storm lost to the Sparks. She feels strongly that the Storm would have been able to do more had the team been healthy.
"I think that we had an amazing year," she said, "and bar injuries we probably would have been able to take it all the way again. But things happen for a reason and I think that we're just going to get stronger from this as a team. Our ownership group, Karen, everyone is very focused and feels very positive about the next few years and being successful."
Jackson is excited to know that the Storm will retain its leaders, with the team signing Bird and Agler to extensions this month. The Storm's head coach has built a strong relationship with Jackson that was key in her decision to re-sign last offseason.
"It's nice knowing he's going to be the coach," she said. "Working with him the past two years, he definitely has good rapport with all the girls. It's like a safety thing. If you're comfortable with a coach and comfortable with the team, which I really am, you don't want to go anywhere. I just see the core of this group being together for a long time."
With Jackson ready to re-sign, that will surely be the case.