Storm's Sue Bird in MVP discussion
Never in the WNBA's 11-year history has it happened. A point guard as the league's MVP? Not a chance. The league's glitziest award has gone to the snazziest scorer for obvious reasons. But what about the point guard?
Seattle Times staff reporter
Storm @ Connecticut, 10 a.m., Ch. 4
Never in the WNBA's 11-year history has it happened.
A point guard as the league's MVP? Not a chance.
The league's glitziest award has gone to the snazziest scorer for obvious reasons. Showstoppers like two-time MVP Cynthia Cooper (Houston) and three-time winner Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles) immediately drew the media's attention and ran away with the vote.
But what about the point guard? Reflect back to 2003, when Storm star Lauren Jackson became the youngest (22) and first international player to win the MVP title. That came in the shadow of point guard Sue Bird, who averaged a career-high 6.5 assists. Yet no one talked about Bird being a candidate.
"It takes two to tango," Bird quips about the teamwork it takes to get an assist.
If true, then point guards should pop up in the MVP discussion yearly. Leslie can't bring the ball upcourt by herself. Still, San Antonio guard Becky Hammon finishing second to Jackson in 2007 is the closest a point guard has come to an MVP.
Maybe this year will be different. And Seattle's matchup against Connecticut today at 10 a.m. on Ch. 4 should clearly show why.
Sun point guard Lindsay Whalen is questionable to start due to a right ankle sprain suffered in her team's win against Atlanta on Friday, but based on league MVP guidelines, she's the MVP front-runner. Add that fans can now vote for the award this season, accounting for 25 percent of the final tally, and the race could be all guard — with the popular Hammon, Bird and Whalen leading the way.
And none would be a bad pick.
Whalen's Sun is on a five-game win streak, becoming the first team to clinch a playoff berth after Friday's win against the expansion Atlanta Dream. Connecticut has won by an average of 25.0 points in its past four games, and the Sun is the only team to have defeated Seattle at home.
All that and Whalen, who averages 14.4 points and 5.4 assists, is orchestrating a team with five rookies.
"We like each other, we play really hard and we're unselfish," said coach Mike Thibault of why his team is atop the Eastern Conference at 18-10. "With Lindsay and Asjha [Jones] as our cornerstone, we haven't changed much in what we do offensively. We've been able to jell quicker than I or most people thought — and most people probably thought a year from now."
With Bird, her ascension to MVP candidate was an unfortunate circumstance. Jackson, the team's leading scorer (20.2) and rebounder (7.0), announced she'd miss five WNBA games to prepare with her Australian national team for the Olympics and then had minor right ankle surgery Thursday. Most figured the Storm season was lost.
Enter Bird, who altered her pass-first mentality to average 16.5 points, scoring 20 points or more in three games without Jackson to help the Storm go 4-2 and retain its second-place standing in the West. Bird is averaging 13.8 points overall — her best since her rookie season (14.4) — and is tied with Whalen as the league's assist leader at 5.4.
The Storm (18-9) needs three wins or a combination of a win and losses by Houston, Sacramento and Minnesota that equal three to secure Seattle's fifth consecutive playoff berth.
"In my experience with the awards and all of that stuff, when your team does well and you win, you'll be awarded accordingly," Bird said. "In the WNBA, it's hard because there are so many top players, and what do you base it on — team records, individual stats? That's why if my team wins the championship and I play a part in that, whatever comes, comes."
This season, that may be MVP.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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