Tulsa Shock 2010 Season Preview
New city, new identity, and new expectations.
We continue previewing the 2010 WNBA Season with the Tulsa Shock. You can read past previews here.
by Ben York / @bjyork
Yes, the Shock relocated from Detroit to Tulsa, but there is very little “Detroit” that carried over in the transition. The Shock resembles more of an expansion team than a relocated team. Even so, there is a palpable feeling that comes with a new coach, new players, new fans, and a new city — a strong belief in each other.
When Nolan Richardson was announced as head coach, the former Arkansas Razorback brought with him an unmistakable winning pedigree that the Shock desperately needed. In Richardson’s system, you are only as good as your weakest link. His up-tempo style of play needs a certain buy-in from every player during every minute of every game. He’ll have his team in shape, fundamentally sound, and ready to exemplify the meaning of “40 Minutes of Hell.”
It might sound cheesy, but the closest thing I can think of to describe Richardson’s system is the ancient Greek military formation known as the phalanx. In that philosophy, soldiers protected the respective soldier next to them and so on and so forth down the line. Thus, if there is a hole in the formation, the entire squadron falls apart. In Richardson’s system, the defense puts so much pressure on the offense that if a defender gets beat, it is not just necessary but vital that the help defense collapses on the driving offensive player. Rotations must be crisp. The weak-side has to be in your peripheral vision at all times. A rebound-by-committee mentality is mandatory.
But, in order to implement such as system, you need the right players. The Shock added 10 new players to their roster so far and the majority of them are known for their work ethic, a team-first mentality, or simply wanting an opportunity to breakthrough in the league and showcase their skills (i.e. Shanna Crossley). Along with Crossley the Shock has added Chante Black, Amber Holt, Ivory Latta, Scholanda Robinson, Christi Thomas, Amanda Thompson, Iciss Tillis, and Marion Jones. The common link between all of them is they are willing to work hard and be coached — something not all professional athletes are willing to do. Perhaps more importantly, the willingness to be “coached” is a must for anyone playing for Nolan Richardson.
In the group of returning players from their Detroit days (there are only 5), Shavonte Zellous will be looked at to be the Shock’s main scoring threat. She had a phenomenal season as a rookie while playing second-fiddle to Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan averaging 12 ppg in just over 20 minutes of action each night. With Zellous, the Shock have an open opportunity for emerging players such as Shanna Crossley, Kara Braxton, Plenette Pierson, Scholanda Robinson, and Marion Jones to display what they can do on the court.
Jones has been a hot-button topic for not just WNBA fans, but sports fans across the globe. Some are frustrated that her spot on the roster didn’t go to a player who has previously been in the league while others are excited to see what Jones can do in the WNBA. I, for one, applaud her desire to compete at such a high level again and am thrilled that she has been given another chance. Make no mistake about it; if she wasn’t a good player, she wouldn’t have been given this opportunity. In her first pre-season game against the Seattle Storm, Jones saw about 12 minutes of action and produced 4 points (2-5 shooting), 2 steals, and 3 rebounds — not bad at all.
All optimism aside, it will be extremely difficult and improbable for the Shock (in their first year in Tulsa) to beat out the other five Western Conference powers for a Playoff spot. The Mercury, Storm, Sparks, and Lynx are simply too talented. Still, I don’t think the Shock are expecting to do so. After all, they basically are an expansion team and will be searching for their identity and niche in the league.
Yet, in spite of all the constant change and turmoil that will inevitably face the Shock in 2010, I honestly believe they’ll be one of the most fun teams to watch in the league.