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Holland-Corn Not Only 2003 Shock Star Who’s Struggled

Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | Sep. 7, 2004
An unpredictable summer in the WNBA produced another head-scratcher Friday, when the Houston Comets released guard Kedra Holland-Corn - just over six months after trading their first-round pick to the Detroit Shock to acquire her.


Holland-Corn did not live up to expectations in Houston.
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty
According to the press release issued by the Comets, the decision rested with Holland-Corn, not them.

"Kedra Holland-Corn has decided to leave the Houston Comets," the release read, "and we have granted Kedra her release."

Holland-Corn also told the Houston Chronicle that the release, "would allow me to play professionally and allow me to play where I want to play."

Naturally, Holland-Corn's decision has sparked rumors that she was frustrated with Houston Coach Van Chancellor. The Chronicle noted that Holland-Corn had fallen out of favor with Chancellor in the last month before the break (I previously interpreted Holland-Corn's benching as an attempt to re-create her success in the same role in Detroit).

It's hardly new information to report that, for all his success with the frontcourt, Chancellor has struggled to manage his guards since the retirement of two-time MVP Cynthia Cooper. While Chancellor has been able to get solid contributions from young point guard Sheila Lambert this season, Holland-Corn has had a difficult campaign, shooting just 37.1% and averaging a career-low 6.6 points per game. Considering that Holland-Corn was arguably the WNBA's top reserve in 2003, this season's performance has been a surprise.

Or has it? Consider that in 2002, her last season with the Sacramento Monarchs before being traded to Detroit for the draft rights to Kara Lawson in April 2003, Holland-Corn shot even worse than she has in 2004 - 34.1% from the field, 24.2% from three. Holland-Corn has used less possessions playing alongside Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, but that also means she's turned the ball over less and has posted the best assist/turnover ratio of her career.

The bigger picture is that Holland-Corn is part of a large group of 2003 Shock players who have been unable to match their phenomenal success this season. Forward Swin Cash, thanks in large part to completely re-working her form on her jumper, has improved this season; every other member of Detroit's starting lineup, along with Holland-Corn, has regressed.

Here is a comparison of how these five players have performed in 2003 and 2004:

HOLLAND-CORN
Year   MPG   PPG  RPG  APG   TS%  R40   P40  EFF40
--------------------------------------------------
2003  20.4   9.2  1.7  1.9  .601  3.3  18.0   15.7
2004  26.0   6.6  2.4  2.0  .500  3.0  10.1   10.2

POWELL
Year   MPG   PPG  RPG  APG   TS%  R40   P40  EFF40
--------------------------------------------------
2003  28.4   9.0  3.2  3.9  .529  4.5  12.6   15.0
2004  25.7   4.5  3.0  4.8  .428  4.6   7.1   13.0

NOLAN
Year   MPG   PPG  RPG  APG   TS%  R40   P40  EFF40
--------------------------------------------------
2003  29.8  12.4  3.3  2.6  .559  4.5  16.6   15.8
2004  33.2  13.9  3.8  3.4  .470  4.5  16.7   14.3

FORD
Year   MPG   PPG  RPG  APG   TS%  R40   P40  EFF40
--------------------------------------------------
2003  29.9  10.8 10.4  0.8  .526 14.0  14.4   21.2
2004  29.2   9.6  9.3  1.0  .449 12.8  13.2   18.0

RILEY
Year   MPG   PPG  RPG  APG   TS%  R40   P40  EFF40
--------------------------------------------------
2003  29.3   9.6  5.9  1.9  .570  8.1  13.1   18.0
2004  30.4  11.2  6.1  1.5  .496  8.0  14.7   16.9

AVERAGE
Year   MPG   PPG  RPG  APG   TS%  R40   P40  EFF40
--------------------------------------------------
2003  27.6  10.3  5.1  2.2  .554  7.1  14.8   17.3
2004  28.9   9.5  5.0  2.5  .469  6.7  12.7   14.6

While the Shock's key players have generally been about the same in terms of passing and rebounding, the obvious drop-off has come in their true shooting percentage, which has fallen by over 15%. To put that into more meaningful terms, the Motown 5 has gone from Cash's 2004 offensive efficiency to that of Deanna Nolan or Indiana reserve Coretta Brown. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Detroit's core was expected to have true staying power because of its youth; Cheryl Ford, Nolan and Ruth Riley (and Cash) are all 25 or younger, while Elaine Powell and Holland-Corn are only 29 and 30, respectively.

So what has happened to the Shock? Numbers are able to show the what (not scoring nearly as efficiently, getting to the free-throw line less, allowing opponents to get to the free-throw line more and shoot better), but why is an entirely different question that may not be answered for several years.

And Holland-Corn? Two out of three years seems suspiciously like a trend. Teams considering signing Holland-Corn should expect the 2002/2004 model, not the 2003 version. That's not to say that Holland-Corn doesn't have value. While I supported bringing her off the bench if it was a role she was more comfortable in (and let the record note that Holland-Corn shot 51.9% as a reserve, 41.2% from three-point range), she remained Houston's best option at shooting guard, and the bell has probably tolled for the Comets playoff chances. There are plenty of WNBA contenders with thin benches who could use Holland-Corn if they could squeeze her in under the salary cap.

Win-maker?

You've got to love the Eastern Conference. A week ago, the Indiana Fever was left for dead, having lost its final six games before the Olympics break. I pointed out how the Fever's early-season run above .500 was built largely on a favorable home schedule and didn't give Indiana a great shot at making the playoffs, even though I've generally thought the Fever as talented as any team in the East.

After three straight wins (by a combined 52 points) to start September, the Fever has got to .500 and is a half-game behind the New York Liberty. All three wins came against the Washington Mystics (home-and-home) and the Minnesota Lynx, a pair of teams whose All-Stars (Chamique Holdsclaw and Katie Smith) are out because of injuries. At the same time, that didn't stop either the Mystics or the Lynx from playing well before the break.

A great deal of the credit for Indiana's rapid turnaround has to go to center Kelly Schumacher, who has averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in her first three starts of the season. Fever Coach Brian Winters wanted to get Schumacher, who has played well in limited minutes all season, into the starting lineup before the break, but a sprained ankle kept him from making the change. It has worked wonders so far. Schumacher allows the Fever to play a bigger lineup, something Winters tried to do early in the season before rookie Ebony Hoffman was found wanting as a starter. Schumacher has been one of the league's top per-minute shot-blockers and is shooting 48.1% from the field, a potent combination. (John Clayton of the Fever's Web site has more on the success of Indiana's revamped lineup.)

In the Western Conference, the Sacramento Monarchs - taking advantage of a pair of games against the San Antonio Silver Stars - and Phoenix Mercury have both gotten off to 3-0 starts as they battle each other for the fourth playoff spot in the Western Conference. If the Monarchs and Mercury stay hot, however, they have the chance to threaten Minnesota and the Storm for their spots as well.

Proving Herself


Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the Silver Stars.
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty
Who has been the most surprising member of the rookie class of 2004 thus far? How about San Antonio guard Toccara Williams? A third-round pick out of Texas A&M, Williams started the season a distant third on the Silver Stars depth chart at the point, but has impressed enough that she's now started four games when Olympian Shannon Johnson has been injured. In those four starts, Williams has averaged 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals while shooting a respectable 40.8% from the field.

Nobody fills up a box score like Williams, who led the NCAA in steals this winter as a senior and ranks second in steals per 40 minutes so far this season. (Storm guard Tully Bevilaqua, at 4.35 steals per 40 minutes, leads the league by a mile in this category; Williams is at 3.49.) Williams still struggles to score and is shooting just 34.1% overall, but in a league that values defense and ballhandling from its point guards, Williams looks like a keeper. If she can develop to the point where she's a legitimate threat on offense, Williams could be the heir apparent to the 30-year-old Johnson or allow San Antonio to play her more at shooting guard to take advantage of her ability to create her own shot.

They Walk The Line

More than two-thirds of the way through the season, it seems enough time has passed to evaluate the impact of the WNBA moving the free-throw line from 19-9 to 20-6 to match the international distance (this is especially interesting as the NCAA considers moving back the three-point line, amongst other changes). Here's a look at the WNBA's league-wide statistics in related categories for the last three years (2002 is included because these numbers were moving before the line was changed):

Stat   2004  2003  2002
-----------------------
3PT%   .352  .336  .340
3PA%   .211  .227  .224
2PT%   .434  .441  .444
eFG%   .454  .456  .458
PF/40  37.7  37.6  38.2
PS/40  69.5* 68.9  68.5
PT/40 132.1 135.0 133.8

3PA% = 3FGA/FGA
eFG% = (PTS - FTM)/FGA
PS/40 = possessions per 40 minutes

Oddly, three-point percentage has actually improved this season - substantially at that, after going down from 2002 to 2003. What appears to be happening is that, after the three had slowly become more of the WNBA's game, it has decreased in importance this season. Marginal three-point shooters have used the shot less, which has meant the percentage of threes out of total shots has decreased and the percentage made has gone up.

Equally interesting is that two-point percentage has dropped significantly. This is probably mostly due to the fact that shots that were short threes have now become long twos. It may also reflect that teams are taking worse two-point shots as they take better threes. Add it up, and the net effect is that effective field goal percentage (which properly counts each three as 1.5 field goals made for their added value) has declined by the same amount this season as it did from 2002 to 2003.

After a decline in whistles last year, fouls have stayed relatively constant this year. Possessions are up, but that's probably a quirk in how they are measured. The WNBA's Basketball Communications Office began tracking possessions this season, so that figure actually represents the number of possessions. The past numbers are estimates from field goals and free throws attempted, offensive rebounds and turnovers. Given that shooting efficiency hasn't changed much and points per 40 minutes have gone way down, it seems likely that possessions are also down. How much that relates to the new three-point line is debatable.

More WNBA Analysis from storm.wnba.com