Two-time MVP Lauren Jackson was named to the all-WNBA first team this afternoon, joining Phoenix stars Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, San Antonio G Becky Hammon and Indiana F Tamika Catchings. Los Angeles stars Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker, San Antonio F Sophia Young, Indiana G Katie Douglas, and Detroit G Deanna Nolan were named to the second team.
First-team members receive $10,000 while second place garners $5,000. Jackson’s Storm teammates Sue Bird and Swin Cash were left off the list of top-10 players.
“That’s unexpected,” said Jackson of being named for the sixth time in her career. She ranked among the league’s top scorers (19.2) despite missing eight total games due to injuries. Jackson was surprised at Bird being left off the list voted on by national sportswriters and broadcasters, including myself and the Storm radio crew.
“Without Sue, we would not have the success we’ve had even though we dropped out early,” Jackson said. “But you can attribute that pretty much to injuries.”
Jackson’s injury in particular was the main issue for the second consecutive postseason. Her Storm (20-14) was booted from the first round on Sunday by Los Angeles. The Sparks and Mercury tip-off today at 7 p.m. PST in a best-of-three Western Conference finals series where the winner plays either Detroit or Indiana for the WNBA title. The defending champion Shock begin their series at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.
“Los Angeles is a very good team, very big, but I would have tried [to play],” said Jackson of her plans to return if the Storm had advanced. She added that she would have been going against doctor’s orders, however. “At the beginning of the year everyone thought that LA would come out on top and I know Phoenix is playing amazing basketball. But if we’re talking about talent and the will to win, I would put LA No. 1 right now.”
Jackson missed the final six regular-season games and postseason due to two fractures in her right lower vertebrae. She is departing this week to return home in Australia where she’ll be re-evaluated. If the bone doesn’t fuse, she’ll have to undergo surgery. But, comparing the injury to others, Jackson expects the bone to fuse.
After healing, she’ll travel to Russia to play another season with Spartak, living with Taurasi and Bird. Jackson plans to return to Seattle for the 2010 season, verbally committing to a two-year deal as soon as players are able to sign contracts in January.
“I want to finish my career here,” Jackson said after her exit interviews with coach Brian Agler and CEO Karen Bryant. “I’m going to play in Russia for the next few years, see how that goes, and the after that I’m probably going to have to think about shortening it. Maybe play back in Australia so it’s not so full-on and then play WNBA. But I am going to have to think about slowing down at one point.”
Jackson said that having Agler signed through the 2011 season and Bird returning were reasons to sign a two-year deal. Previously she only wanted to commit to one-year contracts.
“But I plan to be here a lot longer,” Jackson said. “It’s nice knowing he’s going to be the coach and obviously working with him the last two years, he’s got a good rapport with all the girls. It’s like a safety thing. If you’re comfortable with the coach and you’re comfortable with the team, which I am, you really don’t want to go anywhere. I see the core of this group being together for a long time.”