At what point do the Tulsa Shock make a change?

July 7, 2011 12:23pm
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In a league with only 12 teams, it’s rare for teams to make the jump from cellar to contender in only a short amount of time because there is such a consolidation of talent. Aside from a situation in Minnesota where they missed a lot of players due to injury the past couple seasons and were able to draft Maya Moore with the number 1 overall pick, it is difficult to make that leap without a unique set of circumstances from year to year.

Fast forward to July 7th, and the Tulsa Shock are getting ready to host the Phoenix Mercury tomorrow. Tulsa is currently in last place, and hold the league’s worst point differential. They are coming off an embarrassing 30 point blowout by the aforementioned Lynx and now have to face, arguably the league’s hottest team (no pun intended) in the Mercury. As the oddmakers currently have it, Tulsa will be the biggest home underdog of the season. Is coach Richardson making the best of a bad situation? Would Tulsa even be better off making a mid-season change?

Kelly Hines of the Tulsa World, has explored some of the pressures facing coach Richardson as this point of the season. “This year, the Shock has been limited by inferior talent. As coach, Richardson may be getting as much out of the players as he can, but as general manager it’s up to him to find difference-makers. ”

Losing Amber Holt on a team lacking in guards was unfortunate, but I think Richardson has been getting a pass for being stubborn to his system. He obviously does not have the personnel to play the style he wants to play, yet insists on it. While I am not a basketball coach, nor would I advocate coming up with a new playbook in the middle of the season, Nolan’s “40 Minutes of Hell” seems difficult to buy into. Tulsa has the highest TO% (which accounts for turnovers on a per possession basis) in the league and I can only imagine what might happen in the up and down game Phoenix will bring to the BOK Center tomorrow night.

Jessica Lantz of Swish Appeal, touches on some positive changes the Shock have experienced, although sometimes you need to read between the lines of their double-digits losses. “The team is slowly figuring out how to use a 6-8 center down low by lobbing her the ball inside. And Cambage herself is adjusting to where she needs to play on the court in order to be effective against WNBA competition… And something that was sorely lacking to start the 2010 season – chemistry – is actually present in the locker room, despite the magnitude and ferocity of some of this year’s losses.”

While turning the team into a slow it down, half-court kind of team is easier said than done, I can’t help but think a complete emphasis on running everything through Cambage, the tallest player on the court in every game, will pay dividends. Slowing down the game should also combat some of their turnover issues, conserve an already short bench, and keep Tulsa fighting for that much longer in each game. Kayla Pedersen has also really impressed, and continues to get better each and every game. You could make as good of an argument for her as rookie of the year right now as any player in the league.

While maybe a coaching change is not going to make a difference at this point of the year, the role of GM for Richardson needs to be evaluated immediately. If he insists on playing his system, there needs be to be someone in the GM role finding the right players for his system. There are no easy fixes in this league, but go to from 2008 WNBA champion Detroit Shock to the Shock’s current state in Tulsa should not have been this “easy” either.

 

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