Lauren Jackson, Brian Agler sweep WNBA awards
Lauren Jackson is the WNBA's MVP for a third time, and the Storm's Brian Agler is Coach of the Year.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Phoenix @ Seattle, 7 p.m., NBA TV
Spoils from a magical Storm season will be handed out by the WNBA on Thursday.
In a ceremony before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at KeyArena, forward Lauren Jackson will be announced as the 2010 league MVP and Brian Agler will be named Coach of the Year. It's Agler's first honor and Jackson's third. She joins Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie as the only other three-time MVPs in the WNBA's 14-year history.
"The award itself, I never would have got it if we hadn't achieved what we had," said Jackson, who was also honored in 2003 and 2007. "And I know for a fact that if Sue (Bird) wasn't my point guard, I would have never got the award. Everybody played such a huge part and I'm really fortunate I got to play with these guys this year and that everyone is so focused on winning."
Jackson, a 6-foot-5 power forward who averaged 20.5 points and 8.3 rebounds in 32 games, plans to do something special for teammates to recognize their part in her MVP season.
Agler said he will make sure Bird knows the role she played.
"It's the one individual award that's impacted by multiple people (and not) just the person who receives it," said Agler, who was also named Coach of the Year in the defunct ABL. "What are we going to do without Lauren? What are we going to do without Swin Cash? But when all of this shakes out, the one person that has impacted this all the most, especially Coach of the Year, is Sue Bird. Sue makes your team operate at an extremely high level."
There was brief doubt Jackson would secure the MVP award after being named Player of the Month three times by the league. Agler rested his starters and played different rotations once the Storm locked up home-court advantage throughout the postseason with a win against Atlanta on Aug. 10. The shift, including missing one game due to back spasms, caused Jackson's average to dip to 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds in games played in August after an impressive 23 points and 9.1 boards while winning seven games in July.
Yet, as contenders Cappie Pondexter (New York) and Tamika Catchings (Indiana) flirted with chances to win the award, Jackson's seasonlong dominance was too difficult to top. Coaches were routinely befuddled after games in which the native Australian shredded their defensive schemes, helping the Storm jump to a 22-2 record to open the season.
"She had a broken back 12 months ago and had to be immobile from any activity for four months," Agler said of Jackson, whose 2009 season ended after doctors discovered two stress fractures in her lower back in August. "Going from that state and getting back into the best shape in her life, getting into the season with a great hunger and producing and elevating her team to record-breaking status — it wasn't surprising to me that she got the award. I would have been shocked if she wouldn't have."
In addition to being healthy, another key to Jackson's third MVP award is defense and being surrounded by a solid roster — which led to Agler's selection as Coach of the Year.
"I feel as I've gotten older, the stronger I am and the better I am," Jackson said of her defensive game. She was named to the WNBA's 2010 all-defensive second team. "But Brian focuses on it every day and I don't like it, but it's his system. No, I do like it and it has been a focus (lately)."
Agler's Storm teams have always been successful, posting a 46-5 record at KeyArena since he was hired in 2008. He formed a core via free agency, trades, and international scouting that helped the franchise win a WNBA record-tying 28 regular-season games and nab its first No. 1 playoff seed this year.
The hardest test is this week's matchup against No. 2 seed Phoenix, the defending champion. The Storm swept the Mercury in five meetings this season, but was swept by Phoenix in the 2007 postseason under coach Anne Donovan.
"I would definitely trade this award in to have the opportunity to win this series," Agler said. "All of us that are a part of our team are more focused on our team aspirations than individual things right now."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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