Storm PG Sue Bird sat back in her seat and shook her head, “I’m going to have to have a talk with Nolan Richardson. He’s just giving these players away.”
Whether that chat is curt or cheery will depend on Thursday’s matchup with the Indiana Fever. Further clearing out former Detroit players, Richardson, the first-year Tulsa coach, traded prized second-year shooter Shavonte Zellous (pictured right by the WNBA) to Indiana for a second-round pick in the 2011 draft on May 27.
Say what? Zellous was the 11th pick in the 2009 draft, a key contributor to the defunct Detroit’s playoff run and everyone knows second-round picks, aside from say F Camille Little, barely have chances to make limited WNBA rosters. Making the move stranger was the Shock playing the Fever two days later.
Zellous, who’s averaging 8.8 points in an average 16.8 minutes off the bench for Indiana, played five minutes and scored two points in the five-point loss in Tulsa.
“She was a steal for us,” Indiana PG Tully Bevilaqua said. “It was late the night before we were leaving to go to Tulsa that I heard about the transaction. What a thing for her to play for one team and the next night the other team against her old team.
“But I think she’s going to be that kind of X-factor player for us off the bench where she can just come in and just try and stop her — she’s just so quick! And she’s very aggressive.”
Zellous’ spark along with late returnees Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas, Tammy Sutton-Brown and Ebony Hoffman finally settling in has the Fever looking like the defending Eastern Conference champions, again.
Indiana is 4-1 so far in June and a 4-1 overall at Conseco Fieldhouse. Thursday’s matchup with league-leading Seattle (9-1) is key to gauge where the team is at against an opponent that’s clicking. Plus one that the Fever has owned at home, winning four of the past five since 2004.
The Fever (6-4) will host East-leading Atlanta (9-3) on Saturday.
“The first two weeks were just like, ‘Let’s try to get through this,” said Bevilaqua, whose teammates were busy winning championships and competing in postseasons overseas. “We tried to fast-track that chemistry, but it’s now the last week or so that we’ve seen it all come back to normality. The jetlag is out of the systems and it’s definitely a better feel for us on the court.”
Seattle, meanwhile, is looking for its sixth consecutive victory — 100th overall for coach Brian Agler. The Storm would also move closer to Houston’s all-time best start in the WNBA, which was 11-1 set in 1999.
Betters are going with Indiana in this anticipated, grueling defensive battle. My pick remains the Storm because of depth. If F Le’coe Willingham and Svetlana Abrosimova can continue to contribute the way they have during the five-game win streak, the Storm should be able to pull through.