I had every intention of covering tonight’s early-evening games in this column, but events conspired against me. Or more accurately, the WNBA’s disappointing and shambolic LiveAccess service conspired against me. The thoroughly annoying ‘Technical difficulties’ screen was a part of all three broadcasts tonight, and for no good reason in the case of the first two (seeing as they were running fine elsewhere). So blame WNBA.com and the Turner group that handles their online services. It’s a mini-update instead.
Lauren Jackson signed a multi-year contract extension today with Seattle. I’m yet to hear how many years she added on, but that locks her up through at least the 2013 season. Storm announcer Dick Fain said 2014 in tonight’s broadcast, but he might well have been guessing.
Whenever you can lock in one of the best players in the world for future years, it’s obviously a good thing, but I was a little surprised by the announcement. At this point, Jackson has shown her loyalty to Seattle, and stated time and time again that she can’t see herself playing anywhere else in the WNBA. So the chances of her leaving when she became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season seemed tiny. Re-signing her now means they have two options next year, when Jackson has already said she’ll skip the first half of the WNBA season to prepare for the Olympics with Australia. Either a), they carry Jackson as one of their 11 roster members, playing with 10 until she shows up. Or b), they put her on the ‘recallable’ suspended list until she arrives. Option b) saves them money, but Jackson’s salary would count against the cap even when she’s not there, and Brian Agler would have to fit his other 11 in as well.
The alternative was to allow her to become an unrestricted free agent, and then sign her when she arrives after the Olympics next year. That would’ve kept her number off the cap entirely until the second-half of next season. Maybe that’s precisely why Jackson and her agent wanted to sign an extension now, and there’s a side-agreement to not suspend her next year at all. Then Jackson would get her full $105,500 even though she’d only be in town for about 15 regular season games. We’ll see how it plays out.
In smaller contract news, Connecticut signed Jessica Breland for the rest of the season, rather than messing around with repeated seven-day deals. It’s also possible that another team made her an offer for the full season, so the Sun had to step up and do the same or lose her. She’s yet to appear in a game for the Sun, but obviously head coach Mike Thibault likes what he’s seen in practice.
The WNBA named its Players of the Month for July as Seimone Augustus in the Western Conference and Angel McCoughtry in the East. Personally, I’d have been tempted by Tamika Catchings in the East and Augustus’s teammate Lindsay Whalen in the West, but scoring tends to be the dominant factor in determining these awards. McCoughtry’s 25 points per game average over the month tipped it for her, and Augustus’s 19ppg at 55% from the floor earned her the honours. They were certainly well-deserving of recognition as well.
Minnesota’s Maya Moore took home Rookie of the Month honours, and there was no real argument about that one. Her scoring may not have been quite what some people were expecting in her first year as a pro, but with so much talent around her it hasn’t needed to be. She’s filling up the stat-sheet in every category, and helping her team win. A lot. With Danielle Adams now out for several weeks, it looks like the Rookie of the Year award has become practically a fait accompli as well, assuming Moore avoids injury herself.
Normal column returns tomorrow, with coverage of tonight’s games (and quite possibly tomorrow afternoon’s game in LA as well).
Today’s Games (already completed):
New York @ Atlanta, 7.30pm ET
Phoenix @ Minnesota, 8pm ET
San Antonio @ Seattle, 10pm ET
Connecticut @ Los Angeles, 3pm ET