Canberra stint may sway 'LJ' to stay
Bronze for the Opals
Australian players celebrate winning 83-74 against Russia in the women's basketball. Photo: AFP
Superstar Lauren Jackson remains undecided on her Olympic Games future but a three-season stint in Canberra could help the veteran power on to Rio in 2016.
Jackson added another prize to her already superb career when she led the Australian Opals to a bronze medal in London yesterday.
While disappointed to miss out on the gold-medal match, it erased the memories of a horror campaign at the world championship two years ago where the Opals finished fifth.
Lauren Jackson, right, celebrates with teammate Suzy Batkovic after the Opals claimed the women's basketball bronze medal. Photo: Getty Images
As one of the world's best players at the age of 31, Jackson is constantly asked whether she will continue her career for another four years.
She usually answers the same way: ''I don't know.''
But linking with the Canberra Capitals at the end of the year for the WNBL season could be the perfect tonic for the most prolific point-scorer in Olympic history to extend her career.
Jackson has signed a three-season contract with the Capitals believed to be worth close to $1 million.
She will play three of the next four WNBL seasons with the deal to expire after the 2015-16 campaign.
Providing she can remain fit, that would put her on the cusp of a fifth Olympic appearance.
''I don't know [what I'm doing], for me it's just day-by-day. I can't tell you what I'm doing tomorrow let alone in four years,'' Jackson said.
''I actually feel like I'm playing better than I have been in a long time. Last year I had a run of injuries and even leading into the Opals I had a torn muscle. In May, June and July I was battling torn muscles everywhere, so I was just trying to get through. This last month things have started to roll for me and I feel good. I feel great. Now I go back to Seattle and then to Canberra.''
Jackson will return to Australia this week and almost immediately head over to the United States to play with the Seattle Storm in the WNBA. When the season ends, she will take a brief break to recharge before joining the Capitals.
Jackson had a whirlwind Olympic campaign. She carried the Australian flag at the opening ceremony and then broke the Olympic point-scoring record in the preliminary rounds.
She missed out on the gold medal absent from her collection, but the Opals were buzzing with bronze.
''Bronze is the new gold,'' former Capital Abby Bishop declared.
''We're finishing on a high. It's better than the last couple of games we've had. Some people don't get to an Olympics, so I'm really happy.
''I don't know what to say, I'm lost for words a little bit.''
Capitals and Opals coach Carrie Graf believes Jackson can play at another two Olympics.
Graf's four-year contract as the Opals coach expires this year and her Capitals deal finishes after the WNBL season.
But she said she hadn't started thinking about her future.
''That's been the furthest thing from my mind, it was about what we can get done here,'' Graf said.
''My contract is up post-Olympics and I've got a season left in Canberra. Who knows what my coaching future holds. Right now celebrate with the girls, it's about celebrating the bronze medal.
''To win a medal at the Olympics is tough, it would have been nice to be a different colour, but any colour is good.''