Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A story and a note

Here’s a copy of the notebook that ran in the first edition of Wednesday’s Bulletin. Many of you probably didn’t get a chance to see it, so here it is:

Norwich Bulletin

MOHEGAN -- Back in 2004, when the Detroit Shock were defending their first WNBA title, they didn’t quite realize how hard it would be.

They watched the finals on television that year.

Three years -- and one more championship -- later, the Shock entered Tuesday’s night showdown with the Connecticut Sun as they have most games this season: focused, intense and, most importantly, well aware of what it takes to accomplish the one goal to elude them.

That is, winning two straight WNBA titles.

“In 2004, we were real young,” said Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer. “We were a bunch of babies and we didn’t realize how hard we had to play to defend the championship and we got caught up in some problems. We don’t have that right now.”

Detroit’s 15-5 start stands as one of the best in league history -- only this year’s Fever team’s 16-4 mark, an Eastern Conference record, was better through 20 games -- and it included some dandies.

The Shock scored a league-record 72 second-half points in a 111-82 win over Phoenix on July 8, the first victory in their six-game win streak entering Tuesday. Less than three weeks later, they held Washington to 13 first-half points, the third fewest in WNBA history.

Then of course, there’s the Shock 89-80 win over Indiana last Friday – a victory that, with Indiana’s loss the next night to Chicago, moved them into first.

A big part of their success has been UConn grad Swin Cash, who after injuring her knee at the end of the 2004 season, has seemed to regain that edge she had prior to going down, when she averaged more than 16 points per game for two straight seasons.

The forward is averaging 11.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and has played a big role in place of Cheryl Ford, who sat out Tuesday for the second straight game with a sprained knee – the same injury that kept her sidelined for a handful of games earlier in the year.

“She wills herself to work hard,” Laimbeer said of Cash. “She goes out and gets out there after rebounds. If you play hard in this league, you’re going to get results. And with Cheryl being out, we needed her rebounding more this year.”

A quick note:
The WNBA trade deadline passed Tuesday rather quietly. Actually, it passed very quietly -- no trades were made anywhere in the league. It was expected, though -- current salary caps around the league make it harder to deal than in the past. As of a couple weeks ago, with the Sun struggling, there was a chance they could have pushed for a trade, but with the team’s improved play and the emergence of Evina Maltsi (an early-season signing) there really was no need.

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