Commentary

LJ still settling in for Storm

Storm look to step it up in final nine games after Saturday's home loss to Phoenix

Updated: September 6, 2012, 2:49 PM ET
By Michelle Smith

Lauren Jackson is still living out of her suitcase -- in her own home in Seattle.

There has simply been no time for anything as permanent as dresser drawers or closets.

"I feel like I'm such a lazy person, but I come home from practice and I'm just so tired that I want to go to sleep," Jackson said.

[+] EnlargeLauren Jackson
Steven Bisig/US PresswireLauren Jackson is averaging 8.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 23.7 minutes over three games.

And the way the rest of the WNBA season plays out, perhaps there's no point anyway.

Following Thursday's home game against Tulsa, Seattle heads out for a six-day, four-game road trip through Tulsa, Indiana, Atlanta and San Antonio. And then there's just another week left in the regular season before the grind of the playoffs begins.

Still, plucking clothes out of a bag in your own home "is a little weird," Jackson admitted.

There's a lot about this WNBA season that has been weird for Jackson. She will play only a dozen regular-season games for the Storm since returning from the London Olympics, with a short trip to her home in Australia in between.

Jackson, the three-time WNBA MVP, returned to the Storm with a bronze medal -- the Opals lost in the semifinals to the United States -- and her new standing as the Olympic tournament's all-time leading scorer.

She also returned to a team that looks a lot different after significant roster changes in the offseason. The Storm are not the same team that won a WNBA title in 2010, with new faces such as rookie Shekinna Stricklen and veteran Tina Thompson inside filling some of the gap in Jackson's absence.

"That's probably been the weirdest thing, missing Swin [Cash] and Ashley [Robinson]," Jackson said. "That was the one thing I noticed straight away. The team dynamics have changed; the great thing about being around in the preseason is you have time to work each other out and get to know each other. I didn't have that."

Jackson's return to the lineup has not quite been the spark that the Storm might have been hoping for. She has played in three games thus far, averaging 8.7 points, far off her career average of 19.1 points a game. She's playing what can only be described as limited minutes, averaging a little more than 23 a game. In the Saturday loss to Phoenix, Jackson was 2 of 8 from the floor for six points.

All things considered, I think it was a really good thing to happen to us. The last four or five days of practice have been so intense.

-- Lauren Jackson, on how Saturday's loss motivated Seattle

She acknowledged that she's tired.

"The Olympics are so emotionally draining, and then going back to Australia and then back here," said Jackson, who was the first female flag-bearer for the Australian team. "But I am glad to be back. It's just a matter of getting back on the same page."

Jackson, a four-time Olympian, said she's not sure whether she'll play in the 2016 Games in Rio. She will be 35 then. Jackson indicated after the Olympics that it might be time to hand things over to the next generation of players. And she might not want to repeat this year's grueling globe-trotting schedule.

"I really have to think about all this," Jackson said. "I'm not sure what I'll do."

After a bumpy start to the season, the Storm were looking to make a move toward the top of the Western Conference standings following the Olympic break. But they knew it wouldn't be easy. Injuries inside to Thompson and center Ann Wauters have impeded progress, and the Storm are 11-14 and in fourth place in the West.

"I think we are a team that's in transition right now," Storm coach Brian Agler said after his team dropped to 2-4 post-Olympic break with a home loss to Phoenix on Saturday. "We're bringing people in and we're going to try to get better and make the playoffs.''

That loss seems to have shifted something for the Storm, Jackson said.

"It was a bit of a blow to us, and I think it got us to think about what we want and how to go about it," Jackson said. "All things considered, I think it was a really good thing to happen to us. The last four or five days of practice have been so intense. You can really see that coming out in the players, and that's probably good for us."

The Western Conference is proving to be a tough place to make headway, with Minnesota, Los Angeles and San Antonio all taking turns as the league's hot team this season. But the Storm's playoff position seems secure with Tulsa and Phoenix far behind in the standings.

"I think it's going to be fun," Jackson said, "and I think this is going to put us on track to be better come the playoffs."

Michelle Smith

Contributor, espnW.com

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