"Your star player will be out for the rest of the season, and maybe the playoffs. Now ... SMILE!"
That was pretty much the scenario for members of the Seattle Storm this week when the 2010 WNBA champions were honored by President Obama at the White House.
As they were taking photos in the White House Rose Garden, most of the team learned that three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson – "the heart and soul of the Storm," according to KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel – was to have hip surgery. She's expected to be out up to three months.
Not your typical photo op
Art Thiel says it was odd that Storm head coach Brian Agler chose to use the White House event to make the announcement about Jackson's status (Agler says some players knew prior to the event). Art says the coach was prodded by the president, who wanted to know why Jackson wasn't there.
"Apparently a number of teammates had not been informed about this. So this was breaking news to them."
Perhaps the Storm's Sue Bird put it best, when talking with Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans:
"From a basketball standpoint, there are a lot of choice words I could use to describe how sucky this is."
Storm playoff hopes in doubt
Art says, despite other stars like Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Jackson was the heart and soul of the Storm.
"She's the Michael Jordan of the WNBA and a real star who was a team catalyst. She's such a formidable player that the team was built around that I think it's going to be a difficult endeavor to try to keep going at the pace they established last year. It's just very hard because she's so valuable."
He says they now have to try to redo the team in the middle of a season that hasn't gotten off to the best start. They're 4-2 heading into Friday's game against Connecticut. Art points out that they were down 22-0 in the game against the Minnesota Lynx – not the norm for the Storm.
Is it the end of the Lauren Jackson era?
Jackson is 30 years old and no stranger to injury – it's the reason why she missed the playoffs in 2008 and 2009. Art says she's a warrior and could bounce back from this latest injury (her hip labrum was torn in half and off the bone during a June 21 game against Tulsa).
But Jackson has already informed the Storm that she plans to spend next season getting her native Australia ready to compete in the 2012 Olympics in London.
When will Jackson be in a Storm uniform again? Art says we'll have to wait and see.
You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.