Jet-lagged and fatigued but fortified by coffee, Lauren Jackson was on the bench for Sunday’s preseason win over the Phoenix Mercury after arriving in Seattle on Saturday night.
“I got to sleep at about 5 o’clock this morning,” Jackson told reporters before the game while watching her teammates warm up. “Brian (Agler) was nice enough to say, ‘You don’t have to get up at 7 o’clock and come to shootaround today,’ so that was lovely of him. I slept about five hours. I’m still a bit dazed and confused. I feel good. I’m really excited to be back. I just had the best time at home. All good things come to an end, so it’s time to start a new chapter here in Seattle.”
Instead of trying to make time to come home between her seasons overseas, Jackson was able to spend her entire offseason in her native Australia, returning to the WNBL to win another championship with the Canberra Capitals. The experience was a positive that came out of a frustrating injury – the stress fracture in her lower back that ended Jackson’s 2009 WNBA season.
“The injury, maybe it was a blessing in disguise for me,” she said. “Not going back to Russia, being able to play in Australia and being able to take care of me for the last six months, it’s just been the best thing for me.”
First, there was the matter of rehabbing and getting back into shape. Jackson was ordered to rest for three months to give the stress fracture time to heal, and wasn’t allowed to run until December. She credits the medical staff at her old stomping ground, the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, for helping her recover.
“I think I’m more in shape now than I was before,” she said. “I had all the resources there to get me going. It was easy to do it there because I had the support of all my old friends and people that I really, really trust. I wouldn’t have been able to come back the way I did without the people at the AIS.”
Jackson now has a clean bill of health.
“Once you’ve fractured your back, it’s always going to be achy,” she explained, “but they’ve said to me it’s very unlikely that it will happen again. I remember the first day after the first game I came back and played, it was a little achy, but not having that pain that I had when I was playing here those last few games, it was unbelievable – that’s one thing that I wish to never experience again. Then going through the season, I felt so good. Honestly, when it happened, I didn’t know if I would ever feel great again because it was one of those things where it was such a horrible pain.”
Since the WNBL season ended in March, Jackson has had time off before last week’s training camp with the Australian National Team in preparation for the World Championship this fall. Jackson described the camp, which featured two three-hour sessions a day led by Opals Head Coach Carrie Graf (a former Storm assistant), as “intense.” She did not participate in all the on-court work, sitting out at times in the name of self-preservation with an eye toward Storm training camp.
At the conclusion of Opals camp, it was time to say goodbye to family and friends and head to Seattle.
“It was sad leaving,” Jackson said. “Leaving my mum and dad at the airport yesterday, I was teary-eyed.”
But Jackson knows she has big things to look forward to with the Storm.
“I heard a couple of things and then (Director of Basketball Operations) Missy (Bequette) picked me up from the airport last night and filled me in,” she said. It sounds good. Everyone’s really excited. She said it was one of the best Storm camps ever. I think it’s going to be a great year.”