The Detroit Shock are looking up in the standings, but they feel they have made a move that may make them the team to beat in the East again.
The Shock try to end a four-game skid as they debut veteran forward Taj McWillliams-Franklin on Friday at home against the New York Liberty.
Detroit (16-11), the defending Eastern Conference champion, is in second place behind Connecticut after heading into the Olympic break on its longest losing streak of the season. The skid includes an 84-81 home loss to Los Angeles on July 22 that featured an ugly brawl, resulting in Cheryl Ford's season-ending knee injury and the suspension of Plenette Pierson for four games.
"This break was good to defuse some of the negative publicity surrounding the incident we had," said Shock coach Bill Laimbeer, whose team opened 10-0 at home before losing three straight.
With Ford out for the year and Pierson having two games left on her suspension, the Shock acquired McWilliams-Franklin - a six-time All-Star - from Washington on Aug. 19. McWilliams-Franklin, who reached the finals twice with Connecticut in 2004 and 2005, averaged 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds with the Mystics this season.
"I can only be me on the court," she said. "That's why coach Laimbeer brought me here, to do what Taj McWilliams-Franklin does best, and that's definitely to help them win more games."
The veteran adds a new dimension to the rivalry between Detroit and New York, as McWilliams-Franklin is a longtime Liberty nemesis from her days with Connecticut.
"We know Taj," New York guard Loree Moore said. "They're going to have experience inside the post just with her, so they did it for a reason. Taj is very experienced, she's been in a position where she's been very successful what she's done so far in this league and in her career."
Detroit and New York (15-11) have split two games this season after the Shock eliminated the Liberty in three games in last year's playoffs. The Shock fell 74-64 on July 12 in the last meeting, blowing an 18-point lead in the third quarter in a game in which Laimbeer was critical of the officials.
The Liberty entered the break with a three-game winning streak, but fell 69-60 to Chicago on Thursday in their first game back. New York had 17 turnovers and leading scorer Shameka Christon managed only six points while shooting 2-for-12 from the field.
"We played really flat," Christon said. "Our turnovers, we only had 10 assists, and not knocking down shots was the telltale story for us."