2005 In Review:
What Went Right?
Bill Laimbeer said during the 2005 season that he had the best team in the game. On paper that may well be true, but it hasn't exactly translated to the win column - or the trophy case - since the Shock took the title in 2003.
In the team's home opener against the eventual WNBA Finalist Connecticut Sun, Nolan registered only the fourth triple-double in league history by posting 11 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. While it was a triple-double by the slimmest of margins, it was a glimpse of things to come from Nolan, who, only a few games later, scored a team record and WNBA season-high 34 points against New York.
Posting career-best averages of 15.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 3.7 apg, Nolan earned her first ever All-Star Game appearance and became the first-ever Shock player named to the All-WNBA First Team.
in the season, Detroit added a second All-WNBA First-Teamer when it acquired Katie
Smith in a trade with the Minnesota Lynx. Smith gave Detroit an instant perimeter
scoring threat, but discovered the bottom of the basket shockingly difficult to
find for her new team. In 13 games with the Shock, Smith scored only 9.5 ppg on
.374 shooting - both figures well below her career averages of 17.1 ppg and .412.
What Went Wrong?
After the above-mentioned 4-0 start, things began to unravel for the Shock. The team dropped 12 of its next 16 games and never got back above .500. The team squeaked into the playoffs, needing a tiebreaker to edge Washington for the final Eastern Conference spot.
The team played the first 12 games of the season without Swin Cash, the two-time All-Star and member of the 2004 US Olympic gold medal winning team, who was recovering from a torn ACL suffered at the end of the 2004 season. Cash returned in time to play in the All-Star Game, but was still limited by the injury. Playing less than 22 minutes per game, Cash posted the lowest number of her career and was noticeably hampered on defense.
The injury to Cash and the addition of Smith, however, can't
explain the team's struggles from the free throw line. As a unit, the Shock shot
a mere 65.8 percent from the charity stripe, down from 70.2 in 2004 and 70.7 during
their Championship season. The 65.8 percent figure is the second-lowest mark in
Looking Ahead To 2006:
Aside from the obvious health-related questions surrounding Cash and the acclimation of Katie Smith, there's some uncertainty in the backcourt after Elaine Powell was selected by the Chicago Sky in the expansion draft. Detroit signed free agent Kedra Holland-Corn, a key piece of their 2003 Championship run, during the offseason, and have Nolan and Smith capable of holding down time at the point, but neither is a true "one."
"We will look to the draft," Laimbeer said during a luncheon with WNBA President Donna Orender in early March, "and we may make a trade someplace to get a point guard that we can groom for the future because with Kedra and Katie Smith, they probably have a good two or three years left before they're marching off to retirement-land. So we need to bring a young player along right now, buy her time and give her a chance to learn from our guards before eventually taking over the point guard spot."
The possible trade Laimbeer alludes to could come because the Shock does not hold a first round pick in the upcoming Draft, having packaged the selection in the deal for Smith.
Whether the team brings in a true point guard or not, it still boasts a talented starting five who all played in the 2005 All-Star Game. As a result, Laimbeer and the coaching staff will look to change up the offense a bit, and give the team more freedom to move.
"Some people would call it a 'triangle offense,' like Chicago used to run," Laimbeer said. "I won't call it that; we'll call it a motion offense where everyone gets involved because as long as our players have their hands on the ball at different spots on the court, and as long as you have enough movement and screens, it will all work out for itself."
What remains to be seen is whether Detroit's struggles can be worked out and the Shock can return to the top of the East standings.
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