Lauren Jackson isn't 100 percent, but she'll be on the floor when Storm opens playoffs
Storm star Lauren Jackson still isn't 100 percent healthy after having hip surgery but says "I'm getting there." Jackson will be in the lineup when the Storm faces Phoenix on Thursday at KeyArena.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Phoenix @ Seattle, 7 p.m., ESPN2
When asked if she has recovered from the hip surgery that stole most of her season, Lauren Jackson chuckled.
"Definitely I'm not 100 percent yet," she said. "But I'm getting there. That's the main thing."
When the Storm begins the playoffs Thursday against Phoenix, it will have its three-time MVP and seven-time All-Star on the court after a one-game layoff.
Admittedly, Jackson isn't playing at the level she did last year, when she led Seattle to a WNBA championship and was named 2010 Finals MVP.
"It's probably a little bit of everything," she said. "Just coming off surgery. Normal stuff. I feel the last eight games have helped me get involved with the team.
"I feel like I'm getting better each game. It's more a mental thing and getting through that."
Jackson had surgery June 30 and missed 20 games of the 34-game season. She returned Aug. 20 and averaged 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in the first seven contests.
Recently she took a hard hit on her surgically-repaired hip, which adversely affected her in Friday's four-point, three-rebound performance against Phoenix.
Jackson's hip suffered swelling and the minor setback was a factor in coach Brian Agler's decision to sit her out in Sunday's regular-season finale.
"She's going to be rested and ready to go Thursday night," Agler said. "Obviously, she missed 20 games this year so she doesn't have that baggage. It could be good, it could be bad.
"She's going to be fresh. We'll see. There's no question we're a better basketball team when Lauren is on the floor."
Keeping Jackson on the court is critical for the Storm. She missed the 2008 and '09 playoffs with injuries, and Seattle lost in the first round both times.
The Storm posted an 11-10 record this year — including Sunday's 81-70 win over Chicago — without their 6-foot-5 star center. Seattle has won seven of eight games with Jackson since she has returned.
"When she's out on the court it just gives everybody a different feel and a different confidence," All-Star guard Sue Bird said. "She just brings so much. Of course you see the scoring, but it goes beyond that. It's really her presence.
"She's been here 11 years. She's definitely the franchise player and the person that people associate with the Seattle Storm. When she's not there, not just us, but everybody else notices it as well."
In a recent ESPN interview, Jackson, 30, said, "I can give it everything I have for five more years. After that, we will see."
She's signed with the Storm through the 2014 season.
With the end of her brilliant career coming into view, perhaps that's why Jackson pushed so hard to return this season.
She's limited during practices, but after Tuesday's workout Jackson remained on the court and shot three-pointers long after teammates had left.
"She won't tell you how much she's hurting or everything she's doing to be out there, but she wants to play more than anybody," Bird said. "I've seen her play through a ton of injuries.
"What she's doing now, she doing it because she wants to help us win. It's inspiring."
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