Jackson edges Catchings for WNBA defensive award
SEATTLE -- Not even a minute after being told she had won the WNBA's Defensive Player of the Year award, Lauren Jackson was phoning home to Australia to her equally stunned mother, Maree.
"Oh, my God! Can you believe that happened?" Jackson said, gasping into the phone to mom.
"Yeah, a bit of a shock," Jackson said later with a giggle, after the favorite to become the league's MVP lifted a more unexpected crystal award Friday by gaining 20 votes from members of the league's media. Indiana's Tamika Catchings was second with 16.
"A huge honor. I've never won a defensive award in my life," Jackson said.
The 2003 league MVP and its leading scorer (23.8 points per game) and rebounder (9.7) is the first international player to win the defensive award. The 6-foot-5 Jackson's 2.03 blocks per game trailed only Connecticut's Margo Dydek (2.06) -- and Dydek is 7-2. Jackson's 7.1 defensive rebounds per game led the league.
Renee Brown, the WNBA's chief of basketball operations, called Jackson "perhaps the most complete player in the game." Brown also mentioned the MVP award many expect Jackson to also win will be awarded later in the postseason.
Three players have won both defensive player of the year and MVP for the same season: Lisa Leslie (2004), Sheryl Swoopes (2002, 2000) and Yolanda Griffith (1999).
"She's been such a glue for us and stopper for us," Seattle coach Anne Donovan said before the Storm hosted Phoenix in Game 1 of a best-of-three opening round playoff series.
Jackson's numbers are a testament to her relatively injury-free year playing in Seattle, for the Australian National Team and professionally in Russia after years of playing through leg injuries. She also reported to the Storm in the best shape of her six-year career in the WNBA -- all of which have come with Seattle.
"Being fit and being healthy definitely changed every aspect of my career," Jackson said.
"There is no better league in the world. To achieve this award in the WNBA is mind-blowing."
Jackson also picked up the league's Peak Performance awards for leading in scoring and in rebounding.
She was also selected to the all-defensive team.
Catchings' 24 points for the all-defensive team -- as voted on by a panel of the WNBA's 13 head coaches -- were three more than Jackson garnered, as both highlighted the first team. Jackson, in her first-team debut for defense, was joined by Connecticut's Katie Douglas (16 points), Washington's Alana Beard (12) and Detroit's Deanna Nolan (10).
Douglas is on her third straight all-defensive first team, while Beard and Nolan were second-team members in 2005 and 2006.
Catchings' teammate Tully Bevilaqua (9 points) headlines the all-defensive second team. She's joined by Sacramento's Rebekkah Brunson (9 points), Dydek (9), New York's Loree Moore (6) and Sacramento's Chelsea Newton (6 points).
The all-defensive teams were voted on by a panel of the WNBA's 13 head coaches, who selected first and second teams by position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players from their own team.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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