Storm welcome back Jackson for '09
SEATTLE -- Two-time MVP Lauren Jackson is staying in Seattle.
An unrestricted free agent for the first time in her career, Jackson signed a one-year deal Monday to remain with the Storm, who she helped lead to the WNBA title in 2004.
The Australian native and six-time All-Star decided to return to Seattle rather than join the Phoenix Mercury. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but head coach Brian Agler said the one-year contract was Jackson's wish, and that conversations about a multiyear deal have been positive.
"I'm honored to return to the city of Seattle and the Storm organization as I take this next step in my WNBA career," Jackson said in a statement issued by the team. "To have the opportunity to continue to play under coach [Brian] Agler and alongside Sue [Bird] and the rest of my teammates in front of the most loyal and passionate fans in the WNBA means the world to me."
Jackson, the league MVP in 2003 and 2007, has spent her entire WNBA career with the Storm, averaging 19.4 points and 8.0 rebounds.
Last year, Jackson helped Australia to a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics, but had surgery to repair a right ankle injury right after that and was a spectator as Seattle was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Before the Olympics, Jackson was averaging 20.2 points and 7.0 rebounds for Seattle.
At the end of last season, Agler said he was going to be proactive in making sure Jackson remained in Seattle, recruiting her almost like a college coach. He made multiple trips to speak with Jackson while she was playing for Moscow's Spartak Vidnoe, and said headway was made on a contract in the last few weeks.
"We approached Lauren from the standpoint that she was part of our team until she told us otherwise," Agler said. "I was concerned, but I felt like we picked up some momentum here late in the process. We just stayed persistent with our pursuit."
In March, Jackson decided she would return to the WNBA for her ninth season, but was unsure whether she would stay with the Storm or make the jump to the desert and play for Phoenix.
"It's always going to be a tough decision, but I don't know what I'm going to do. As long as I feel like I don't know, I can't make any decisions," Jackson said at the time in a radio interview in Australia.
Jackson spent the winter playing with Bird and Phoenix's Diana Taurasi for Spartak, which competes in the Russian league and in EuroLeague. Agler said Jackson looked fully healed from her ankle surgery.
Jackson, selected by Seattle with the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, is the Storm's all-time leader in points (4,602), rebounds (1,887), blocked shots (485) and games played (237). Along with her two league MVP awards, she was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.
"My feeling with Lauren is that her best days are still ahead of her. I'm convinced of that," Agler said. "There is nothing to me that should stand in the way of that."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press