New Tulsa Shock head coach Gary Kloppenburg has started the transition to a new-look Tulsa Shock for the third season in a row. Team president Steve Swetoha answered fan questions yesterday and shed some light on what to expect with the 2012 roster - and who not to expect to suit up in Shock gold.
Swetoha didn't beat around the bush about the status of the team's two elders from last season, Sheryl Swoopes and Betty Lennox. While Lennox was on-again, off-again and dealt with some health issues throughout the season, Swoopes was a staple to the 3-31 Shock squad. She averaged 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes a night while starting 28 games.
But now she has some serious thinking to do about her WNBA basketball career. At the end of last year, she alluded to wanting to play one more year and leave the league on a positive, uplifting, celebratory note - unlike when she was unceremoniously waved from the Seattle roster in February 2009. But if she still harbors those ideas, the unrestricted free agent will have to find a new home.
"Sheryl and Betty have become unrestricted free agents and are able to sign with any other team," Swetoha wrote in response to a fan question. "Sheryl and Betty have meant a lot to this game and our league. We are so thankful they were able to play a part of their career here in Tulsa. However as Coach Klopp has mentioned, we as an organization are going in a different direction. We do not plan on re-signing Sheryl and Betty and we wish them nothing but success in the future."
One person that does fit into Klopp's direction is Jennifer Lacy. Lacy, who was also an unrestricted free agent, signed a multi-year deal to remain in Tulsa on Feb. 13. That is the only contract that has been negotiated thus far in the offseason. The other roster move that the Shock has been involved with this year was the trade of Andrea Riley to Phoenix in exchange for Temeka Johnson.
The Tulsa roster has two restricted free agents in Shanna Crossley and Amber Holt. Crossley, who is apparently set to return to the court sporting her maiden name of Zolman, is rehabbing from her knee injury in Seattle after working on the broadcast team for the Shock last season.
Abi Olajuwon is tagged with the reserved label for Tulsa and remains unsigned at this time. Deanna Nolan is still considered a Shock core player, and the team owns her rights despite her absence from the league since the franchise moved to Tulsa.
The Shock will have the fourth selection in the 2012 WNBA Draft to bolster the team with even more young talent. Looking at the 2011 final roster and the list at WNBA's Player Movement Central, this leaves a group of Lacy, Johnson, Tiffany Jackson, Ivory Latta, Karima Christmas, Kayla Peterson and Liz Cambage as currently signed players.
Cambage will count against the cap but not against a roster spot until after she returns from the 2012 Olympics. After the London Games, the organization will have to release one of their 11 players to make way for Cambage's return from Australia.
The way it stands - without Zolman and Holt signed - Klopp will have the opportunity to pick up five players of his choosing (or three if he brings back the two restricted free agents). Nate posted a comprehensive look at the available unrestricted free agents and what value they might add to a team, and the list is getting slim. But some of these still unsigned women just might be prime personnel to start the Kloppenburg era.