I have been basketball lazy during the break. I had pretty good internet access, but work has been demanding and family even moreso during the span. Quite a bit has happened, but for the moment I want to focus on three areas, the loss of Lauren Jackson to injury, the USA win in Beijing and the upcoming playoff race.
LJ is Gone
In my humble (OK I am seldom humble, but anyway) opinion, anyone who questions Lauren Jackson's commitment is a ninny. Yes, I chose that word on purpose. If LJ chooses to have surgery now, then her pain was simply unbearable and the risk to her future significant. If you disagree, well, shut up.
To say that the Storm will not be as strong without her is the definition of understatement. The more important question is whether they can succeed without her. I believe, that there are six winnable games in the queue for the Storm, even without LJ. This is not statistical, this is gut feel. I don't think they can best LA or Connecticut on the road, but the rest are open for gutsy play from proven pros. I worry most about Chicago after watching the fantastic play of Sylvia Fowles in the Olympics. I am not slighting Sacramento, Houston or Minnesota, but they are available for the taking. Losing either Atlanta game is unacceptable at this point. That said, I will be chanting "Betty...Betty...Betty!" and "Izi, Izi, Izi!" at the Atlanta game in the key before the game starts.
I expected and demanded this reality. It broke my heart and I cried true, manly tears when I saw LJ and Penny Taylor in the medal ceremony. My youngest son said before the game that he wanted LJ to take gold and let Sue have bronze. I explained that Russia had the bronze and that the US could only have silver or gold and he said silver was OK as long as LJ got the gold one, cuz that was the best and LJ was the best, too. He was not happy when I shared the final score, though he did ask me to pause an LJ free throw so he could gaze longingly at his hero. When I was watching the men play he was significantly less interested asking me who the "good" guys were.
I would be really surprised if the Storm could pull out first place with LJ out. The battle will be with LA for second. Fortunately, the Sparks have an equal schedule to the Storm and face first place San Antonio twice in their last their final seven games. If the games fall the way I predict the Storm hold onto second and face the Sparks in the first round of the playoffs.