Lauren Jackson's fine, really, but thanks for asking
Lauren Jackson knows questions about her health are inevitable, but says she is focused and ready for the postseason.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Annoying questions Lauren Jackson would rather not hear:
Do you ride kangaroos? Because she's Australian.
What's the air like up there? Because she's 6 feet 5.
How are you feeling? Because her past two Storm seasons were cut short due to injuries.
Health is all anyone can talk about on the eve of top-seeded Seattle's Game 1 matchup with rival and No. 4 seed Los Angeles on Wednesday at KeyArena. It's the third consecutive time — fifth overall — that the teams have met in the postseason, and the first with Jackson since 2007.
"Every day I get asked that question. Every single day, whether it's from just a fan or media or teammates or anybody — It's, 'How are you feeling?' " Jackson said before releasing a sigh.
She's the organization's all-time leading scorer, averaging 20.5 points this summer.
"I understand the concern, but I feel good," she continued. "I feel really good and I'm pretty focused, ready to go."
The redhead only had to unleash once this season. It was an early flight from Los Angeles where airport security questioned a rubber doggy ball in her backpack.
Since doctors discovered two stress fractures in her lower back in 2009, Jackson has used the ball to sit on and relax muscles during flare-ups. Airport security wasn't sympathetic and after Jackson became furious, she retained her ball.
"I'm grumpy at the best of times, but that was fine-form grumpy," she said.
Just like when Jackson was watching teammates struggle the past two postseasons without her. She needed season-ending ankle surgery in 2008 and had to stop playing last year to rehabilitate her back. She returned home to Australia, after L.A. took the series 2-1, getting care from her national-team physicians and winning a WNBL championship.
Seattle seemingly held its breath as the Storm completed a WNBA-tying 28-6 record with a healthy roster. Seattle is 3-8 all-time against Los Angeles (13-21) in the postseason, not advancing past the first round since winning the championship in 2004.
"They're not a team that's necessarily intimidated by coming into KeyArena," said Storm coach Brian Agler of the Sparks, who used a 15-4 fourth-quarter run in the season finale on Saturday to nearly end Seattle's 17-0 mark at home.
"The only thing that's the same is the, well, I guess that's different, too," Sue Bird said of both teams putting sponsorship names on the front of their jerseys. "Really, the only thing that's the same is the colors. They're a completely different team than last year. They're missing two important players in Lisa (Leslie, who's retired) and Candace (Parker, who's injured). For us, the focal pieces have been the same."
In addition to health, Agler surrounded his All-Star caliber starting unit with an experienced bench. Forwards Svetlana Abrosimova and Le'coe Willingham were starters on their previous teams. Willingham won a title with Phoenix last season.
Among the first unit, forward Camille Little is having a breakout season, averaging a career-best 10 points and 6.5 rebounds alongside Jackson. Little has a tough matchup against Sparks forward Tina Thompson, who's averaging 21.9 points and 7.3 rebounds this month.
"We're going in at a high, knowing we have all our players healthy," Storm guard Tanisha Wright said.
The Sparks have noticed.
"They're already good, and they seem to go when (Lauren) goes," Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said. "Lauren is probably playing her best basketball this season. She stayed healthy all season, and it makes a difference. It gives them consistency, and it's going to make it a little bit more difficult for us."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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