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September 19, 2008 at 6:27 PM

Leslie named top defender

News started trickling out of Staples Center early with Los Angeles center Lisa Leslie being named Defensive Player of the Year this evening. It’s the second time she’s won the award, averaging 8.9 boards and 2.9 blocks in 33 games.
Leslie gave a lot of credit to teammate Jessica Moore for pushing her in practice and was thankful to win the award after taking a year off to give birth to her first child. “I wasn’t sure I’d get my timing back,” she said.
The news was a bitter pill for the Storm and surely more motivation for tonight, although Seattle hardly needs more reasons to play hard. The league’s All-Defensive teams were named and while PF Lauren Jackson was placed on the second team by WNBA coaches, center Yolanda Griffith wasn’t named.
Griffith is referred to as the “psychological MVP” around KeyArena. Her numbers are paltry, averaging 6.3 boards and 1.4 steals in 30 games, but when the game is close and the Storm needs a stop inside, Griffith is there.
A late fumble prevented the Storm from defeating Sacramento in the second-to-last road game of the season, but Griffith still helped put the Storm in position to win with her seven rebounds and five steals, which complemented her 16 points.
“This is in no disrespect to the players in the league because there are a lot of great players, but if you look at the team defensive categories in the league, we are a pretty dominate defensive team,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “And we can only have one person on that? And we’ve got people like Yolanda that’s not mentioned, then I tend to wonder what people are watching and looking at.”
When making his ballot, Agler said he didn’t even look at stats, just his scout for teams. Sacramento coach Jenny Boucek, who has two players on the team in PG Ticha Penicheiro (first team) and Rebekkah Brunson (second team), said she doesn’t normally vote, handing the ballot off to an assistant.
“I don’t worry about that individual stuff,” said Griffith, who won the award in 1999. “I’ve had it before and I’m not worried about it right now. We’re worried about one thing and one thing only — LA tonight. Congratulations [to former teammate Penicheiro], other than that, I really haven’t paid attention to it.”
First time was Indiana Tamika Catchings and Tully Bevilaqua, San Antonio’s Sophia Young, Sacramento’s Ticha Penicheiro, and Los Angeles’ Lisa Leslie. Second team was Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles, Seattle’s Lauren Jackson, Sacramento’s Rebekkah Brunson, and Detroit’s Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan.
Just count how many of those players were injured this season. The answer is four putting the Storm’s agitation into perspective.

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