Storm's Lauren Jackson ready for her prime basketball years
Starting her 10th season, Jackson hopes to avoid injuries that have plagued her late in the past few seasons. She had 23 points and 10 rebounds in Seattle's opening victory.
Seattle Times staff columnist
These are the beginning prime seasons for Lauren Jackson. As hard as it is to believe, after winning two league MVP awards and one WNBA championship, she feels as if her best basketball is in front of her.
This is her time. She hasn't felt this healthy in a couple of years. She hasn't been this ready to start a season since her early years in Seattle.
Arguably the most complete player in the league, Jackson believes she still is getting better and to prove it, on opening night Sunday, she played like, well, Lauren Jackson-plus.
Against the L.A. Sparks, the team she calls, "the best team in the league," Jackson scored 23 points, had 10 rebounds and blocked three shots in more than 35 minutes of the Storm's 81-67 win.
A double-double in the opener? The prime of Lauren Jackson looks very familiar.
Still Jackson holds herself to a higher standard. By the Jackson Standard, Sunday's new beginning was maybe C+ basketball.
"I don't feel like I shot particularly well (6 for 16), so I wasn't 100 percent happy with my effort," she said. "I'm 100 percent happy with the win, no doubt, but I think I can play a hell of a lot better than I did tonight. I'm not patting myself on the back by any means."
This WNBA season is particularly important to Jackson because, this year, she wants to finish what she starts. August and September have been the cruelest months of her seasons
The past two years, injuries — her ankle one season, her back another — have kept her out of the playoffs. She wants this, her 10th WNBA year, to be her longest and her most lush.
"The next two or three years, while I'm still in my prime, I'm really going to give it my best to stay healthy," said Jackson, who turned 29 last week. "I'm going to do everything I can to take care of my body and all I can to not get injured.
"I'm back and I feel better than I have in a long time. Hopefully that will build and I can make sure I'll never get injured again. But you can't ever really control that as an athlete."
Especially the way Jackson plays.
Basketball is a collision sport for her. It is elbows and floor burns. It is bruises and bumps.
In the fourth quarter of Sunday's opening night, Jackson skidded on the floor after a loose ball as Los Angeles' Stephanie Tolliver fell across her back.
Jackson never is the eye of the hurricane. She always is the hurricane.
"That's how I play," she said. "That's why I get injured, I think a lot of the times. But it's the way I've played my whole life and I'm not going to change now. But, like I said, this is my prime and I want to try to give back to Seattle some of what Seattle has given to me."
In her season debut, Jackson drew the assignment of defending fellow all-star Candace Parker. In her earlier days, Jackson took these assignments personally.
These one-on-ones were the game inside the game for her. Jackson's rivalry with recently-retired Lisa Leslie was the league's fiercest.
Jackson won this one-on-one with Parker. Getting heaps of help from Swin Cash, Camille Little and Tanisha Wright, Jackson held Parker to 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Two of Parker's four field goals came in the brief moments Jackson was out of the game.
"When I was younger, I think I took on board those rivalries more seriously and I think it was to my detriment," Jackson said. "I don't think it helped me play in the game better.
"I think now as I'm getting older, it's more important for me to focus on myself and what I need to do to play. For me to take on rivalries like that, I can't do it anymore because it takes away from what I can do."
In the first game of the year, Jackson looked playoff-ready. The best player in the league for the most of the first decade of the century, Jackson remains one of the hardest working.
She doesn't take possessions off. She doesn't back away from contact. She is a warrior-forward.
"I'm pretty excited about what I can do this year," Jackson said. "I think we have the team that can win the championship, no doubt about it. I've just got to make sure I stay healthy and just keep plugging along."
For 10 years, Jackson has been plugging her way to greatness. Imagine what she might do now that she is reaching her prime.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com.
More columns at www.seattletimes.com/
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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