Signing former 6'4" Oklahoma University center Abi Olajuwon is more than a cynical ploy to boost attendance for the Tulsa Shock.
Losing centers Chante Black (injury) and Nicole Ohlde (retirement) this off-season was a huge blow to their post rotation, even with the additions of Liz Cambage and Kayla Pedersen. Black was a better rebounder than anyone on the current roster, leaving them last in the league in rebounding percentage albeit slightly better than last year.
Olajuwon didn't get much playing time with the Chicago Sky in her rookie season last year, but that's exactly how she can be expected to help. Although her solid offensive rebounding percentage from last season is hard to make much of because she played so sparingly, strong rebounding percentages are something that translate well from college to pro so that bodes well for her. It just gives the Shock one more option to work with in the post and, yes, a potential hometown draw.
Of course, signing Olajuwon to their 11-player roster requires waiving someone as well and the Shock did that, waiving guard Marion Jones.Waiving Jones makes sense statistically as she is the lowest rated Shock player this season by almost any metric. She began the 2011 season with one of the longest streaks of consecutive missed shots in league history. Obviously, there are fans who will look at that and snicker as they expected (and maybe even hoped) Jones to fail as nothing but a cheap gimmick for the WNBA.
But stats aren't everything either.
Any basketball fan can notice and appreciate what Jones' defense and speed meant to the Shock last season within former coach Nolan Richardson's schemes. Nobody could say that Jones didn't give everything she had as a player on and off the court. And by all accounts she was well-liked as one of the elder stateswomen in the Shock locker room.
So if we cast aside our preconceived notions about her, it's not at all a stretch to say that she wasn't nearly as bad as most people expected and wasn't nearly the worst player in the league (as some tried to claim) in her rookie year.
Ultimately, she was just another ball player who was released in favor of another player that might better fill the team's needs.