This is the first time in my seven years with the Storm that I haven’t been involved in an MVP campaign of some sort – Lauren Jackson for several years, including 2003 and 2007 when she did win, and Sue Bird a year ago. With Jackson sidelined by injury and Bird not quite having enough time as the Storm’s go-to player to establish herself in the discussion as she did last year, it did not seem appropriate to push either player.
And I’m kind of happy about that, because sometimes there is a danger of putting the individual player ahead of the team. The success of this year’s Storm has been predicated less on any one player and more on a starting lineup that is strong from one through five. The Storm’s three All-Star starters are indicative of that, but maybe the ultimate testimony is the way the Storm played yesterday without all three of those All-Stars and reserve Katie Gearlds. With other players taking on added responsibilities, the Storm still fought the league’s best team for 45 minutes before falling.
That brings me to Tanisha Wright. No player has stepped up more than Wright this season. We saw what she could do when turned loose as a starting shooting guard toward the end of 2008, but in a full-time starting role this year Wright has added consistency over the long season to take her game forward. She’s become a go-to option for the Storm, not only when the team is short-handed, but even for several big shots when the team was at full strength. The constant has been Wright’s defense and energy.
For veteran Storm observers, watching Wright develop her game has been a pleasure. It was evident that Wright was out of position when she spent much of the first four years of her career playing as a backup to Bird, but she was cut little slack. Now, Wright’s fierce determination and the attitude she brings the Storm have made her a fan favorite.
We put together a page highlighting the case for Wright as the WNBA’s Most Improved Player that I think is pretty compelling to send to the league’s award voters this afternoon. Give it a look and cast your own vote in the poll on the homepage.