Nolan Makes Second Team
“Did you hear that?” Nolan said, turning to point guard Elaine Powell at the locker behind her, grinning. “Second team.” She said it again, nodding with satisfaction.
Nolan is one of the rare talents in the WNBA that could, and perhaps should, expect better. She was named the All-WNBA First Team in 2007, and her statistics were very comparable in 2008. She averaged 15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and a career-high 4.4 assists in 2008. Last year those numbers were 16.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists, respectively.
The voting is conducted by sportswriters and broadcasters that cover the league. Many teams lobby on their players’ behalf, sending full media kids including highlights on DVD. The Shock are one of the few teams who do not. That’s one reason Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer has long felt Nolan doesn’t receive the recognition she deserves.
“Surprised? I’m not surprised she didn’t get First Team. I’m long past disappointed we don’t get awards,” he said. “We don’t seek awards. We don’t put out press releases like other teams that say, ‘vote for this player.’ Players know who she is. That’s all that matters.”
Nolan’s star status might also be hindered by, ironically, Detroit’s success as team. Nolan is centerpiece of the Shock, but the supporting cast Laimbeer has built around her as general manager is so strong that Nolan doesn’t necessarily shine every night.
“The people that get the MVP (talk), being on First Team, are the people that literally have to carry their team the whole year,” Nolan said. “Other teams have to rely on one or two players. We rely on everybody on this team, every night.”
Game 1 of the WNBA Finals was a signature example of this, as Katie Smith and Taj McWilliams-Franklin combined for 49 points. Nolan, Detroit’s leading scorer, had just 10 points, but locked down Silver Stars point guard Becky Hammon – another 2008 First Team guard who dropped to Second Team. Hammon scored only 13 points.
Nolan, an eight-year veteran, has been named to an all-league team four times. She also received First Team honors in 2005 and Second Team in 2003. Nolan will gladly watch the First Team presentation every year as she did Friday – on the court, preparing to play in another WNBA Finals game.
“You don’t worry about the MVPs and the First Teams,” she said. “We worry about championships here.”