In a promotional video to boost her candidacy for WNBA postseason awards, Storm star Natasha Howard donned the nickname ‘Flash’ before racing through the streets of Seattle with the aid of fluorescent special effects.
The low-budget ad reflected the on-court heroics of the dazzling 6-foot-2 forward who dashed, darted and sped around defenders for an assortment of steals, blocks and rebounds on the league’s top defense.
“My instincts tell me to go and I just go,” said Howard, who was voted the WNBA Defensive MVP. “I read and react when it comes to defense.”
Howard was the runaway choice who received 33 votes from a panel of 43 sportswriters and broadcasters. Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike finished second with three votes followed by Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles and Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, who each had two. Seattle’s Alysha Clark, Phoenix’s Brittney Griner and Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams tied for fifth with one vote apiece.
Howard will receive the league’s defensive trophy and a $5,000 check before No. 6 Seattle (18-16) faces No. 7 Minnesota (18-16) 7 p.m. Wednesday in a first-round single-elimination matchup at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
“That was one of my goals this season was to get Defensive Player of the Year,” Howard said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I give credit to Jordin (Canada) and Alysha Clark. They way the play defense is the way I play defense.
“I’m going to share the trophy with those two and the whole team. I wouldn’t be the player that I am without my teammates.”
Howard led the WNBA with 74 steals while ranking third in blocks (1.7 per game) and sixth in rebounds (8.6).
“Big play after big play, Natasha’s ability to read her opponent and make stops has propelled our defense this season,” coach Dan Hughes said.
The Storm finished the regular season with the league’s top scoring defense that allowed 75.1 points per game. Seattle also led the WNBA and set a franchise single-season record with 9.5 steals per game.
“Defense is our bread and butter,” Howard said. “We’re relentless on the defensive end. That’s what we do. We’re a scrappy team when it comes to defense. That’s the only way for us to win games is for our defense to pick up and that’s what we’ve been doing for this whole season.”
Howard becomes the second Storm player to win WNBA Defensive Player of the Year honors and joins Lauren Jackson who did it in 2007.
Last year’s trade that sent Howard from Minnesota to Seattle rejuvenated her career and elevated the former Lynx backup among the game’s elites.
In her first season with the Storm, she won the league’s Most Improved Award and helped Seattle win the WNBA championship.
Due to the absence of injured stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, Howard ascended to a prominent role in Seattle, which resulted in her first WNBA All-Star appearance and start in July.
Howard, who ranks fourth in the WNBA with an 18.1 scoring average, is vying to become the first person to win the league’s MVP and Defensive MVP awards in the same season since Jackson in 2007.
“My main goal is winning the MVP,” Howard said. “That’s my main focus. Also going all the way to the Finals. I have two more goals to accomplish and I’m going to accomplish them with my teammates, coaching staff and the whole Seattle Storm organization behind me.”