As the reality of Lauren Jackson's shin injuries settles in, so does the difference in how she'll be played this season. The Australian native has averaged 33.8 minutes in five seasons with the Storm, but coach Anne Donovan said that could drastically change.
Donovan won't place a number on Jackson's playing time. She said she wasn't sure it could crack the 30-minute mark, but hoped it would be more than the 19 minutes Jackson averaged with her national team during the Opals World Challenge.
It's clear Jackson needs to be weaned back into WNBA caliber of play, most likely not participating in a full practice so Donovan can instead focus on getting the star game-ready.
Jackson, a 6-foot-5 power forward, discovered two hairline stress fractures in her shin after returning home following the Storm's 20-14 season last year. Doctors originally thought she would be out a year to heal the injuries.
Jackson scrambled to enroll in business courses to figure out something else to do with her life. She said Thursday that if her career had ended then, ignoring the pain as she had done wouldn't have been worth it.
She participated in about an hour-long scrimmage Thursday, and teammates noticed a change with her on the court.
"She so dominating," rookie forward Barbara Turner said. "When she's not out there, you want to work harder to get better for when she comes back."
Donovan has said she wants guard Sue Bird to be more aggressive, and Betty Lennox should excel with the shortened 24-second shot clock, but often the team sat around on offense and watched Jackson play or waited for her to take over.
The team is 1-3 without Jackson in the lineup, all four games occurring during the 2004 championship run.
"She's an injured player who's trying to come back," Donovan said of Jackson's play Thursday. "Our goal is to build her up for games. [And] I don't think we're going to see her play 36 minutes a game."
Donovan cut forward Jordan Adams and guard Leah Metcalf on Wednesday, so there were only nine players available for practice Thursday. Franchise original Simone Edwards is expected today, but Donovan isn't going to strain herself to have the allowed 18 players at camp.
"There's no reason to keep players when we know they're not going to make our roster," she said of Adams, who broke her hand and spent her time teaching and play rec ball the past year. Metcalf was undrafted in 2005, joining the North Carolina coaching staff.
"We're relying on our practice guys, who have competed, to coming in morning and night," Donovan said.
Rookie Erin Grant, who was selected in the third round, could be the next cut. She's an intuitive point guard, but her lithe frame (5 feet 8, 125 pounds) is a disadvantage when she goes inside.
Donovan is looking forward to next week when starters Iziane Castro Marques and Bird return from overseas. Center Janell Burse, who has been out with an arm injury, is also expected to practice.
"The difficult aspect of the game is just her [Erin's] strength," Donovan said. "Physically she's outmatched in a lot of situations, and that's tough for her to fix in a very short period of time."
Storm All-Stars Bird and Jackson are among 30 players being considered for the WNBA's all-decade team as part of the league's 10-year anniversary. The list was compiled by a panel of national media, including The Seattle Times, coaches, former players and WNBA personnel. The final list of 10 will be announced in June and honored at the July 12 All-Star Game in New York.
Fans can vote for their all-decade team beginning today at www.wnba.com.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com