It was nice to hear some logic during the broadcast of Los Angeles’ loss to Indiana on Tuesday. The broadcasters were discussing the MVP race, noting the tear Fever All-Star Tamika Catchings is on during her team’s three-game win streak. But after fawning over Catchings, the announcers said Storm F Lauren Jackson (pictured right by The Associated Press) had to be the MVP.
By Aug. 21, the numbers may not look like it — if you’re adding up just averaged points, rebounds, and other stats easily tabulated by any computer program. Storm coach Brian Agler has made it clear that he wants to rest his stars, particularly not wanting to lose Jackson for a third consecutive postseason due to injury. Yet, unlike when he just sat PG Sue Bird in 2009 headed into the playoffs, Agler is going to play the unit sparingly so they don’t loose their groove.
On Tuesday in a 10-point win against Atlanta, that meant five minutes in the first half and about 18 in the second. Jackson finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, further dropping her season averages. In the past five games, she’s averaging 17.4 points and 8 boards. The Storm is 3-2 during that stretch.
So, Jackson is dipping? Hardly. Her value pops up whenever the Storm (25-4) is in need. Against the Dream it was eight points in the fourth quarter to win an improbable game. In a triple-overtime win against Phoenix in July, it was the key assist to Bird for the winning three-pointer. And in an 83-82 home win against Connecticut on Aug. 5, it was swatting away at G Kara Lawson’s dribble to help cause a late shot clock violation. Jackson also had 31 points and eight rebounds in the win.
Take a step further back from the numbers and you can see what it all means for Seattle. Jackson averaged 23 points and 9.1 rebounds in July as the Storm clinched the Western Conference regular-season title. In a conference not dealing with as many injuries and coaching changes, Indiana has yet to do the same, but Catchings is averaging 21.6 points and 8.2 points in August to help the Fever’s efforts in securing the No. 1 seed in the East.
Still, Tuesday’s win gave Seattle the overall best record and luxury to rest with five games remaining in the season. Jackson was key, too, so why should she or anyone else considered for an award on the Storm roster be punished for overachieving?
A panel of local and national media votes on the MVP award, including myself. Catchings is right there with Jackson, to me, because of her importance to the Fever’s success and the fact that Indiana plays in a tougher conference, although Minnesota, San Antonio and even Tulsa have made things interesting for Seattle as the summer heated up.
Jackson, a 6 foot 5 PF, would get the edge as of today (I won’t make my final decision until the votes are due) because Seattle established itself early behind her play and has not flopped since. There have been some stinker wins and even two victories when Jackson wasn’t a factor. If I’m bringing that up, I’m talking about the Fever’s 2-3 start and recent three-game losing skid, however. Advantage: Seattle.
Reality is an MVP helps the team win, get to the playoffs and establish the best scenario when reaching the postseason. No team can top what Jackson has helped the Storm accomplish this season no matter what happens to the Australian’s numbers in the final five games. So, no, rest should not hurt her chances at winning the award.
“Everybody knows that I’m an MVP candidate,” said Jackson, who was named MVP in 2007 and 2003. “To be honest, the work has been done. My work is done. So, if people are going to look at it like that (stats dropping because of resting), then I’ve got nothing to say.”
In other MVP news, congradulations to three-time winner Lisa Leslie for getting her number retired in Los Angeles on Tuesday. It was a nice ceremony attended by Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss as well as the Sparks’ ownership group.