Seattle's Lauren Jackson a Step Above the Rest, Deserves MVP
Will it be Tamika Catchings, who is doing everything she can down this stretch of the season to put the Fever in position for another run at the WNBA Championship?
Will it be Lauren Jackson, who did everything she could over the first two-thirds of the season to lead the Seattle Storm to one of the finest seasons in WNBA history?
Or could it possibly be Cappie Pondexter, who is pacing the New York Liberty in a blistering closing sprint toward the playoffs?
You have to love Catchings' game. It is complete, it is relentless. It is something to see. She was my pick for MVP when the season began and she is delivering for her playoff-bound team. She has scored at least 24 points in five of the last seven games.
Pondexter has averaged 29.5 points in the last week. Her team has won eight in a row. She is this most exciting offensive player in the WNBA this season. And she'll have a chance to do more in the playoffs.
But my vote at the end of the week will go to Jackson. Seattle is 25-6. They have lost only twice in 19 conference games. They are 15-0 at home. And Jackson is the player that makes them go.
Jackson has been resting down the stretch while Catchings and Pondexter have been powering their teams into the playoffs. But her work was done. Seattle clinched its playoff position weeks ago. And the Storm know too well from experience (Jackson has missed the last two playoff runs) that they go nowhere in the postseason without the Aussie on the floor.
Other major votes ...
Coach of the Year: Brian Agler, Seattle. He had a loaded, experienced team, yes. But they won blowouts and close games. They won in triple-overtime. They won on the road. They maintained their chemistry and their focus.
Rookie of the Year: Tina Charles. A no-brainer.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tamika Catchings. A consolation prize for a player that truly deserves an MVP. Just not this year.
All respect to Seattle's dominance, the East continues to be the place where all the action happens, even with all four playoff positions sewn up.
Indiana has won five in a row to stay in first. And it's a good thing too, because New York has peeled off eight straight wins to close the gap. The Liberty haven't lost since July 25 and were as impressive as they've been all season on Friday night when they held Phoenix to just 69 points. The Fever and the Liberty tangle Tuesday night.
Following that game, Indiana closes with San Antonio and Minnesota. New York finishes up with Washington and Connecticut.
Connecticut might have been eliminated from the postseason over the weekend, but the Sun's time will come. Tina Charles just can't be on a team that loses for long. Charles, who set a WNBA single-season rookie record for rebounds and double-doubles this week, looks to be starting a legacy that could have her sharing company with Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson by the end of her career.
Out west, there's still some work to be done. Seattle is way in and Phoenix took its postseason position despite four straight losses. But there are two spots left and three teams -- Los Angeles, San Antonio and Minnesota knotted up at 12-19. Yes, 12-19. It's not pretty, but in the west, it's playoff-worthy.
Right now, it looks tough for the Lynx. Minnesota has Seattle, Los Angeles and Indiana in its closing stretch.
The Stars will finish with Washington, Indiana and Phoenix, while the Sparks end up with Phoenix, Minnesota and Seattle.
Randoms: The New York Daily News reports that the Liberty have made a three-year deal to play in Newark, New Jersey during the $500 million renovation of Madison Square Garden ... Washington's 19 wins are a franchise-record. The Mystics finished third in the East.