"When you have a new franchise like we do, there's going to be some changes gonna still take place, trying to mix and find the right fits." Nolan Richardson before last night's game against Phoenix and the confirmation of the Braxton trade. Is he done dealing? We shall see.
The WNBA trade deadline is fast approaching and the Tulsa Shock are playing the role of casino dealer. And doesn't the house always win? Of course. In Tulsa's case? Might be too early in the hand to cash in the chips either way.
So, even if you've found the multiple moves made by Nolan Richardson and company odd, frustrating or even nonsensical this season, there's more to be made. Just last night, Swish Appeal learned of the Kara Braxton for Nicole Ohlde and a 2011 draft pick trade. And this morning, the rumor mill is still swirling with news that Richardson might not yet be done.
He's on a short clock now, though. Just three days until the July 26th trade deadline and only the league rules will stop him from making more moves in this game of chess, with the players being life-size pawns, knights, rooks and queens.
Since time is of the essence and Richardson is obviously not afraid of the nation's buzzword of change, bring back an (almost) native daughter in Andrea Riley!
Crazy, you say? Not so fast on the crazy talk.
First, she's a Texas gal and played her collegiate basketball at (my alma mater) Oklahoma State. She left Stillwater as the 2010 Lieberman Award winner and 2,835 points - the most points ever in school history, by a man or woman. Along with scoring offense, she has the school record for assists with 707 and her aggressive and speedy disposition led to many steals ending in fast breaks while in college.
For those not versed in the geography of Oklahoma, Stillwater is a mere hour-ish drive to the BOK Center and while Oklahoma City is considered to be of the crimson and cream persuasion, Tulsa leans towards the orange and black of OSU. Many around the country are probably shaking their heads and saying so what to her college game, but in a college-centric state such as Oklahoma, this is big.
When she and her Los Angeles Sparks teammates paid a visit to Tulsa last week, attendance jumped from the 4,000-5,000 spectator range to 7,073. It's evident that Tulsa is not going to win every game, so getting more fans in the stands has to be something that ownership is interested in boosting. Riley has a built-in fan base, more so than former Sooner and Shock rookie Amanda Thompson, that should help get people get even more invested in the new-to-Tulsa franchise.
OK - away from college and onto the W.
Even with the depleted guard situation in L.A.due to injury early in the season, Riley is not working too hard for the Sparks and getting somewhat limited playing time in her first year in the league. Her apparent college mentality of being the 'big fish' and having the green light to shoot at will is slowly coming to terms with being the team player and taking wiser shots while distributing the ball effectively. With most rookies, adjustments to the league don't always come smoothly and seamlessly and this is indeed the case with Riley.
That being said, she's had bright spots indeed, and one of which was at Tulsa in July 13th's 87-71 Sparks win. She had 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting (3-of-5 from 3-point range, 3-of-4 from the line) in her 16 minutes. Quite a stark comparison to her career-high 16 points on 4-of-14 (2-of-10 from 3-point range) in L.A.'s season opener May 15th at Phoenix. The wisdom gained by playing with veteran point guard Ticha Penicheiro must be beginning to pay off as shot selection and ball control continues to improve.
The speed of "Beep Beep" would be an obvious coup in the Tulsa system that favors athleticism, aggressiveness, hustle and defense. Averaging not quite 8 minutes a game this season, her relatively fresh legs could bring a boost to the Shock's depth and quickness off the bench. And she's a pretty darn good defender - pestering some of the best in the league this year with pretty decent success.
Who to trade now that Kara Braxton, my original trade thought, is gone? Who knows the inner-workings of the mind of Richardson? Not I. But given the Sparks salary situation, any player could be traded one for one and my supposition would be that L.A. could use a 3 such as Jennifer Lacy to make the deal workable for both parties.
And really - why not? It wouldn't hurt to have another hometown draw on the roster who's beginning to grow into her own during her first year in the league. And not just because I bleed orange and black!