Those four words could be expected to spark fear in the heart of any fan of the Seattle Storm. Strangely, though, they do not. We have been comfortable in our status as Lauren's second home after Australia. We have been comfortable in her relationship with Sue. She has said that she will play her WNBA career in Seattle as long as she is able.
The key is that as long as she plays in the WNBA, we believed that she would play in Seattle. After a truly painful olympic loss, and her injury keeping her from playing in the playoffs this season, Lauren is truly a free agent for the first time ever in this league and she is not thinking, yet, about next season.
This isn't the first year that there have been rumblings that Jackson would not return to the WNBA. Up until her last contract, Jackson only signed one year commitments to provide flexibility for herself. When she finally signed a multi-year contract with the Storm three years ago, she said she wanted to remove doubts of her return. Of course, then Howard Schultz sold the team to ownership from Oklahoma City and the uncertainty of that situation made Jackson declare that she would not play in Oklahoma. With the sale of the Storm to Seattle based ownership, Force 10 Hoops, it was clear that the cloud of doubt was removed. There were still rumors that she would skip this 2008 season entirely to prepare for the Olympics.
Here we are again, and while there may be less worry about where in the WNBA Lauren plays (despite her strong Phoenix ties), there is the question of whether she will return to the States at all. She was so dejected on the Olympic podium it moved me, and others, as we shared some aspect of her pain. In the Storm's thank you video to fans, she looked as if she had been crying before the taping and had to hold back tears during her pitch. This simply adds fuel to the speculative fire. I don't have any answers, only questions, but I leave the season with the hopeful feeling that the strong words of Coach Agler and CEO Bryant indicate we have a great chance to bring Jackson back to Seattle once she works through her emotions over these two big losses.