Because I can't neglect the home team all the time (I visited with the Storm exclusively after the last home game), I decided to talk to the Tulsa Shock after Friday's loss to the Indiana Fever.
Perhaps it's my new-found West Coast (or at least Western Conference) bias, but I stuck with the Shock after an ugly 85-65 loss despite the 'story' of the night belonging to the locker room of the Fever.
For one, I know what happens first-hand when you don't show your face to the home team (last year I learned my lesson after a player took offense). And two, just like the 5,013 fans in the stands, I feel like I need to show at least some level of support for the struggling franchise, let them know I'm on their side when so many others are not. And not only on their side, but respecting enough of the team to tell their story, however hard it may be at times.Frustrations Mounting:
It's no surprise that interim head coach of the Tulsa Shock, Teresa Edwards, struggles with feelings of disappointment about her team. Especially after a 20-point loss to the Indiana Fever on Friday night at the BOK in Tulsa, Okla. The depth of her disappointment seems to grow with each passing game, and after the loss that makes it a franchise-tying 13 straight, Edwards' frustration was evident.
"I think we've worked hard, we have put in a lot of work in practice and it's just really frustrating when it doesn't show up in the games," Edwards said, echoing a statement that's been made after nearly every game. "I don't know if it's performance anxiety or just the level of competition as from practice to the games. I just can't put my finger on it. This is probably one of the first times that I was really disappointed since I've been at the helm."
At one point in the game, Edwards even performed a line change with a fresh five entering the court. Right after halftime, when the score was 42-32, the Fever came out and scored a quick five points on the starting five. Edwards brought in the bench (save Abi Olajuwon) with 8:35 to play in the third quarter.
"It's just disappointing. We come in at halftime, we have a 10 point game, we have a chance to jump on them, they jump on us," Edwards explained of the rotation. "We talk about the importance of defense right out of the box, coming off the bench there and the first thing they do is start scoring on us and there's no defense. So I'm just - try a new five, see if somebody will listen and get some defense going and it didn't happen. After that you just try and find the five people that really want to be on the floor."
Pride in performance might be lacking in this crew as they lose night after night, game after game. Edwards harkens to the need for personal and team pride to take over in her team of 11.
"I've just got to hope that eventually there's got to be some pride that kicks in and I do think that we can execute better and we can do better with taking care of the ball while we have it," Edwards said. "Things like that become a personal pride with your players and I don't know how much I can keep reiterating the pride of perfect execution, hard work and working well with each other. We've got to have some more pride about ourselves as a team."
Edwards herself seems to be exhibiting signs of frustration and a wavering confidence at times. The coaches around the league are doing their best after games to keep encouraging the leader of the Shock, with her former national team coach Lin Dunn doing her diligent duty after Friday's beating.
"I get encouraged quite frequently but even that gets old. I still have a job to do and I can appreciate it but I'm too competitive and expect a lot more than what I'm getting right now to settle in that, but I do appreciate it," she said with a slump of the shoulders and shake of the head. "She's in line with a lot of coaches after the game that pretty much say the same thing, 'keep working at it, they're getting better' and it's just not good enough for me."
The coach might be appreciative of the words of encouragement, but she doesn't appear to be a believer in their words. When asked if she felt if the team was indeed getting better Edwards replied, "I feel like we're working hard to be better, but I don't feel like we're implementing practices into games well enough. We had change. Maybe we've gotten confused with a different look and change as to getting better. Maybe I'm seeing it a little differently now."
She went on, "I don't want to talk about the players in a sense that I don't appreciate what they're trying to do, but at the same time there's got to be a level of understanding about we can't just go out and continue to do the same things and expect different results."
The Shock have a quick turnaround to try to change what they're doing to get a different result. However, the competition will be fierce on the second half of their back-to-back, as Tulsa takes on San Antonio tonight at 7 p.m. CT. The Shock's 10-day road trip doesn't get any easier after the Silver Stars either. Tulsa meets up with L.A., Seattle and Minnesota to round out their next nine days on the road.
The Shock was suited up in their pink unis for Breast Health Awareness week, a cause that hits home a bit more personally for two of the 11 roster members. Karima Christmas' mother, Jennita is a survivor of the disease as is Kayla Pedersen's grandmother.
"Yeah, it's not a dramatic story," Pedersen said. "She caught it early and got it taken care of, so it's really nice to support this cause."
Pedersen brushed off her own personal story while recognizing that almost everyone worldwide has a story. Her wholehearted support for BHA week could be seen as she spoke eloquently on how she thinks little things like a pink week can advance the cause to cure this deadly disease.
"I think so many women and men are affected by this. Everybody knows somebody that's gone through it and it's a terrible thing," Pedersen said. "I think doing games like this, just generating support, generating funds for survivors to start new foundations and research, it's a great thing. I'm happy to be wearing pink out there tonight."
Tiffany Jackson entered the media room carrying around a basketball tucked under her right arm. But not just any run-of-the-mill ball, but the ball she swished her 1,000th point with. On the front end of a trip to the line with 1:50 to play in the game, she sunk the shot and the announcer boomed her accomplishment.
"I didn't even know I was close," Jackson said with a broad smile. "I didn't have a clue until I heard it at the free throw line. It's an honor and a privilege and I'm really excited about it."
As to where that ball is going next, it will be added to a collection that she only described as "a lot".
"[I'm going to] give it to my mom", she said with a laugh. "And she'll put it next to my draft ball and all the Texas balls."
Tiffany ended the night with 1,003 career points with 12 on Friday and a game-high eight rebounds. She also led Tulsa with three assists. It took Jackson four seasons and 146 games to reach the milestone. After spending her first 2 ½ seasons with New York, she is having her best year yet averaging 11.2 points and 5.0 rebounds a night for Tulsa.
Congratulations, Ms. Jackson! A bright spot in an otherwise dim night for the Shock.
Pedersen may have been wearing pink, but I bet she was thinking red - Cardinal red - as her fellow rookie and former Stanford teammate Jeanette Pohlen took the court with Indiana. The pair of Top Ten 2011 WNBA Draft picks who "talk all the time" even had a chance to nosh together on Thursday night.
During the game, Pohlen and Pedersen were even matched up against each other for stretches in the second half.
"That was awesome and I'm glad we got to guard each other too for a while," Pedersen said. "She's doing so well for them and so it great to see her out there."
On the man-to-man call that came in the game Pedersen remarked, "We've played against each other in practice before for four years before this, so it wasn't too weird."
Pohlen and Pedersen each finished with seven points in 20+ minutes on the night. Kayla also added six rebounds to her tally. Pedersen boasts averages of 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals in 30 minutes a game. Pohlen adds 5.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists a night in her 19 minutes on the court for the Fever.
Liz Cambage only played for 8:49 in the loss to the Fever, a far cry to the 20 and even 30 minutes on the court and in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season. The All-Star finished the night with a career-low in minutes, shot attempts (3), points (4) and did not make it to the line at all in the contest. She had four points, two rebounds, one assist and a steal in her time on the court, vastly undercutting her averages of 12.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Due to the hectic nature of last night's schedule to accommodate the BHA auction after the game, Liz was unavailable to the media.
I don't know how she feels about being in the doghouse or how she plans to get out of it, but I hope that something happens to bring the coach and rookie together and on the same page soon. Times like these are when I personally wish there was still someone like Marion Jones on the roster to give her encouragement when there is a noticeable divide between player and coach.