Monday, Katie Smith went to the White House with the rest of the current Detroit Shock members (and a few no longer with the team but who were part of the 2008 championship group.)
Maybe that was the perfect way to start the second half of this WNBA season for the Shock: by celebrating what the team was last year, and what it hopes to get back to being. That will take some work. The Shock is 5-9 and is in last place in the Eastern Conference. Detroit, which has been off since July 22, gets back to play on Friday when it hosts Minnesota.
At the All-Star Game on Saturday, Smith talked about all the Shock has been through this summer, with the departure of coach Bill Laimbeer and several key injuries, especially Plenette Pierson being knocked out for the season in Detroit’s opener. But the overriding sense you got from Smith was that she still believed the Shock could pull things together in 2009.
“Plenette Pierson has been a huge loss for us,” Smith said. “She’s been one of our rocks the last three years. Kara (Braxton) missed some games, Cheryl Ford has had to manage her time and is getting better. And Tweety (Deanna Nolan) has been banged up.
“So with all that said, we’ve had a lot of games we could have won. Our effort has gotten a lot better over the past two weeks.”
Smith was critical of her own performance as much as anything, saying she has not played with the efficiency she needs to, especially since she’s a longtime veteran.
“I’ve been turning the ball over too much, and I need to rebound better,” she said. ” I’ve been shooting the ball better than I have over the past couple of seasons, but it’s that other stuff that’s bothering me, and I have to tighten that up. I think we’ve made a little progress. It’s all about realizing how tough, mentally and physically, games are and how locked in you have to be every night.”
Smith credited Laimbeer with inspiring her to get into the best shape of her life when she came over to Detroit from Minnesota in a trade that the Lynx will forever rue for how little they got for a future Hall of Famer. Smith has always gotten along well with Rick Mahorn, who elevated to assistant coach, but Laimbeer’s departure was hard for her.
“Bill and I had a great working relationship, and I had a lot of confidence in him and how he does things,” she said. “But I trust Rick, too. The thing is, when you’re new in a head-coaching job, you’re still finding your way. So it comes down to us as players pulling our weight.”
Smith felt pretty down when Laimbeer left so soon after Pierson was injured. With all she’s won in her career, did she really have the desire to dig deep and help propel a team that she didn’t expect would fall so far in a hole?
“It’s hard – and you have to ask yourself, ‘Do you want to cash your chips in?’ ” she said. “But you have to pull yourself back up. It’s the nature of the beast; everybody goes through these things at some point.
“We need to look at the first half as motivation. There have been some interesting things, some tough things, but that is no excuse. We just have to come together and play hard. Then you can at least feel good about it – whether you win or lose, you can feel good about your effort.
“It’s kind of like, if you’re going to do it, you do it well. And it’s also, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ It really doesn’t matter what I did last year. Or even what I did in the last game. It’s, ‘What are you going to do in the next one?’ “