Laimbeer says players “real happy” with acquisition

The Schu Fits

Saturday’s practice had been over for nearly 30 minutes, but Detroit Shock assistant coach Cheryl Reeve was still on the floor running players through offensive sets. Considering that three of the five players were midseason acquisitions, it seemed like time well spent.

The newest member was 6-foot-5 center Kelly Schumacher, who signed Saturday for the remainder of the 2008 season.

In Schumacher the Shock made a surprisingly quality pick-up for so late in the season, a move necessitated by the loss of All-Star forward Cheryl Ford to a torn right ACL suffered in Tuesday’s loss to the Sparks. A seven-year veteran, Schumacher averaged 4.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game for Phoenix in 2007.

“Well, in losing Cheryl for the rest of the season, we need to shore up our bigs and she’s a veteran player,” Shock GM and head coach Bill Laimbeer said after practice. “She’s long, can shoot perimeter and take it inside and play good defense, so we all think that’s a good acquisition and the players are real happy.”

Schumacher has been steady if not spectacular in her seven seasons, with career averages of 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. Like the Shock’s other frontcourt addition in July, 6-foot-4 Stacey Lovelace, Schumacher does not score an overwhelming percentage of her points in the paint. With Ford injured and Plenette Pierson suspended, Detroit’s only low-post scoring specialists for Sunday's game are reserves Kara Braxton and Olayinka Sanni.

“She’s not Cheryl Ford, especially on the inside,” Laimbeer said of Schumacher. “She’s her own self, and we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Schumacher came off the bench in all 34 games last season for the Mercury, which defeated Detroit in the finals. She had her right knee scoped in January and has spent the months since at her off-season home in Miami working on improving her lower-body strength to avoid further knee trouble. “It’s the first real break I’ve really ever had, so it was nice,” she said.

Schumacher nonetheless jumped at the chance to join the Shock, who are in a battle to maintain first place in the Eastern Conference. Currently on a three-game skid, Detroit (16-10) has as many losses as Connecticut (15-10) and New York (14-10). Prior to her Phoenix stint Schumacher spent her first six seasons in the East, five with the Fever before joining the Liberty in 2006.

”I’ve always respected Detroit, even when I was in Indiana, New York and playing in the Eastern Conference,” she said. “They’re always at the top of the Eastern Conference and I just think they’re a great team, they have a great organization and there’s chance to win a championship here, so I’m very happy to be here.”

The WNBA’s one-month break for the Summer Olympics is on the horizon, which should give Schumacher time to get accommodated and build chemistry with her new teammates. But with Detroit’s frontcourt in need of immediate assistance, she’ll be ready to play Sunday against the Silver Stars.

“There weren’t any guarantees for anything, playing time and stuff like that, but I know that I’m needed,” she said. “[Laimbeer] just wants me to come in and be a smart player to play with his really good players.”

Schumacher takes the roster spot vacated by Nancy Lieberman, who signed a seven-day contract on Thursday and was waived Friday. The former Shock head coach and current ESPN commentator added to her Hall of Fame career by becoming the oldest player in a WNBA game. The 50-year-old Lieberman played nine minutes in Thursday’s loss at Houston.