In August 2014, Tulsa Shock managing partner Sam Combs told Swish Appeal that the organization went through a youth movement because that was the best way for the franchise to go, given the players that have been available.
That said, Combs also said in the August interview that "We would love to have some strong [veteran] leadership there, but it's gotta be talent - it's gotta fit with our team."
Finally, the Shock made a move that helps accomplish that, as they signed free agent forward Plenette Pierson on Wednesday. Pierson previously played for the Shock from 2005-2010. She also played for the Phoenix Mercury from 2003-2005, and the New York Liberty from 2010-2014.
More on Pierson
Pierson averaged 7.2 points and 3.1 rebounds last season while playing for the Liberty mostly in a reserve role. She however was a regular starter in New York from 2011 to 2013 when she averaged double digits in scoring in each of those three seasons.
The most notable part about Pierson's career was her time with the then-Detroit Shock, where she won a WNBA championship in both 2006 and 2008. She also won the WNBA's first Sixth Woman of the Year Award in 2007 and was one of just two Detroit players to actually play in a Tulsa uniform when they first arrived in Oklahoma back in 2010. Though Pierson was traded soon after that season started, she did have nice words to say since in the team's press release:
I am very excited to be joining this team and organization. I have admired the growth and development of this franchise since leaving Tulsa in 2010. The coaching staff is dedicated to achieving new levels of success, and I look forward to bringing my championship experience to aid in that quest.
What Pierson has that past Tulsa veterans didn't
For an unrestricted free agent like Pierson, it's hard not to like what the Shock have in place since 2010 when they had to go through an all-out youth movement, even if it was forced. Take a look at their first round picks over the last several years:
- Liz Cambage, the 2nd pick in 2011
- Glory Johnson, the 4th pick in 2012
- Skylar Diggins, the 3rd pick in 2013
- Odyssey Sims, the 2nd pick in 2014
- the 2nd pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft
Sure, Cambage isn't working out. But Johnson and Diggins are both All-Stars, while Sims was on the 2014 Team USA FIBA World Championship team and should be an All-Star sooner rather than later. The second pick of this year's draft should also be a nice addition to the rotation as well, should they keep it.
However, the one thing that the Shock's young core group didn't have was a solid veteran rotation player who has also had significant accomplishments on championship caliber teams and still has some good years left in her. Pierson has that type of championship experience, and though she's 34 years old, it's not like she is supposed to replace Glory Johnson and Courtney Paris. Past Shock veterans either were way past their prime like Sheryl Swoopes. Or perhaps they were players who knew they weren't fits for the team's future positionally in the cases of Temeka Johnson and Ivory Latta.
I have predicted the Tulsa Shock to be the next Western Conference perennial power for some time, at least in part because of their youth movement and their gradual year-by-year improvement. After a long period of being a WNBA bottom-feeder, we are starting to see accomplished veterans take notice and think about signing here. It's not a lack of talent that is holding the Shock back at this point, but perhaps this team just doesn't have enough accomplished veterans to help the young core.
Pierson's signing is no blockbuster by any means, but it says something when a respected veteran player wants to be part of a young, talented team that hasn't made the playoffs in quite some time, but is nevertheless on the verge of a coming-out party this summer.
Now if only I can get a trademark on that #TulsaRising hashtag.