Farris makes roster, will start opener

Laimbeer’s Eleven

Updated: Friday, June 5, 3:50 p.m.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Barbara Farris only joined Shock camp a week ago, but she’ll have plenty of time to make up for her late arrival - beginning Saturday, when she’ll start at center for the defending champions in their season opener at Los Angeles.

The Shock will have another new starter in guard Shavonte Zellous, who will join incumbents Deanna Nolan, Katie Smith and Taj McWilliams.

The decision to keep Farris, a former Shock forward from 2000-05, on the regular-season roster was not a hard one, said Cheryl Reeve, Shock director of player personnel. With key frontcourt players Cheryl Ford, McWilliams and Plenette Pierson all returning from assorted injuries, the nine-year veteran Farris provided a sound insurance policy. The 6-foot-3 Farris played in all 34 games for the Mercury last season, including eight starts, posting 3.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

“Because of our injury situation in the post, that was the reason for the Barb Farris signing. We had to go with a big,” Reeve said. “Initially when training camp started we were hoping to go in a different direction, but as things started to show themselves in preseason, we felt that was the best thing for us.”

Farris is starting in place of Kara Braxton (see inset), who started 30 of 64 games over the last two regular seasons. Coming off a career year in which she averaged 8.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, Braxton is eligible to return on June 28 for a home contest against Sacramento.

With regular-season rosters trimmed from 13 to 11 players in 2009, teams no longer have the luxury to keep youngsters they can develop for the future, like Britany Miller, whom the Shock drafted 18th overall in the April draft. The 6-foot-4 Miller had 15 rebounds in 40 minutes of preseason action, the highest production rate on the team, and scored 17 points on 57.1 percent shooting (8-of-14).

In quintessential example of tough it is to stick in today’s streamlined WNBA, Miller was let go Wednesday, along with Tiera DeLaHoussaye, Sequoia Holmes and Kristen Rasmussen, bringing the Shock roster down to the mandated 11 players. (Click here for the full roster.)

Three-guard lineups likely

Braxton
Shock's Kara Braxton Suspended

NEW YORK, June 5, 2009 - Kara Braxton of the Detroit Shock has been suspended for six games without pay in connection with her off-season plea of guilty to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, it was announced today by Todd DeMoss, the WNBA’s Senior Director, Basketball Operations.

Braxton will serve her suspension during Detroit’s first six games of the season -- at Los Angeles on June 6, vs. Los Angeles on June 8, vs. Washington on June 10, vs. Indiana on June 19, at Indiana on June 21, and at Atlanta on June 26.

Only one of those 11 spots belongs to a small forward - the 6-foot-2 Pierson - and the coaches hope to continue bringing the 2007 Sixth Man of the Year off the bench. That means the Shock could have a lot of three-guard lineups on the floor, especially with rookie gunner Zellous and veteran point Kristin Haynie joining all-league swingman Nolan, Finals MVP Smith and 2008 WNBA steals leader Alexis Hornbuckle.

“We will fill that spot a lot like we did last year, which is basically three guards a lot of times,” Reeve said. “Plenette’s our only true small forward but we’ve got players on the floor who can play. You’ve got to guard Zellous, you’ve got to guard Nolan, you’ve got to guard Smith.”

Nolan, an All-WNBA Second Team guard in 2008, may spend more time at the 3 now that Zellous has shown herself to be an impact shooting guard. She averaged a team-high 13.0 points on 41.5 percent shooting in the preseason while Nolan recovered from a shoulder injury. Though a Nolan-Zellous combo would be slight of build, it would possess undeniable speed and athleticism, capable of putting points up in a hurry.

“Zellous as a starter will be kind of a new thing for us because it’s a little bit smaller than we typically like to go,” Reeve said. “It is what it is and we like the group a lot.” Zellous will be the first Shock rookie to start a season opener since 2003, when Ford started 32 games en route to being named Rookie of the Year.

Ford’s rehabilitation from right knee surgery after tearing her ACL against the Sparks last July has been on schedule for the most part. With three games between Saturday and Wednesday, head coach Bill Laimbeer told the Detroit Free Press that he’s targeting Ford to return for the team’s fourth game at home against Indiana on June 19, which would give the former rebounding champion an extra week to prepare.