Interesting...we knew Katie Smith wouldn't go, but losing Nolan is going to be a bigger blow for them. She says she is "tired" but also "considering all alternatives." And how can the team not be certain what happened with the contract extensions? Hmmmm.
TULSA, Okla. (AP)—One of the last things the Detroit Shock did before they moved to Oklahoma was announce that All-Stars Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith had agreed to contract extensions.
Now that the WNBA franchise has moved to Tulsa, the team’s two top scorers may not be coming along, after all.
Coach and general manager Nolan Richardson says Nolan has indicated she intends to skip the upcoming season to rest instead of relocating with the team. Her agent says she’s not under contract and “considering all alternatives.”
Smith, a six-time All-Star, has already said she doesn’t plan to play in Tulsa and is listed as a free agent by the league. The season begins in May.
Team officials said they’re uncertain what happened with the contract extensions but they’re holding out hope Nolan will join the Shock.
“We’re hoping that she will play, but she may decide—according to her agent—she may decide to take off this year because she’s tired,” Richardson said. “As of right now, she’s saying that she’s not playing this year.”
Nolan, a Michigan native, has played her entire eight-year career in Detroit, winning three WNBA championships and being selected as an All-Star four times.
Her agent, Mike Cound, said it was “more or less correct” that Nolan’s agreement in September to extend her contract was contingent on the franchise remaining in Detroit. Instead, an Oklahoma-based ownership group bought the team in October and moved it to Tulsa.
“Basically, Deanna is under no contractual obligation to compete for Tulsa or any other WNBA team at this time, nor is she under any obligation to comment on the topic,” Cound wrote in an e-mail. “She is considering all alternatives and Tulsa and Coach Richardson will be the first to know anything she decides.”
Nolan, who ranked eighth in the league last season by averaging 16.9 points per game, was designated one of the Shock’s two core players—meaning she would be guaranteed a maximum, one-year contract.
Normally, franchises are only given one core player each year but Richardson said Tulsa was given an extra one because of confusion over the contract extensions with Nolan and Smith.
Richardson said he didn’t “know exactly the details” of why Nolan and Smith, who was part of Detroit’s last two WNBA championship runs, were let out of their contracts but it was his charge to replace them.
“My job is to make sure I can find players that can come in and fit the bill,” Richardson said.
Smith, who averaged 13.7 points last season, told ESPN she didn’t want to finish her career in Tulsa. Phone and e-mail messages left with her agent, Neil Cornrich, were not returned.
“Deanna and Katie are both great players and ambassadors for the League,” Shock president Steve Swetoha said. “Katie’s desire to finish her career elsewhere has been known for some time. While we would love to have her in Tulsa, we understand and wish her only the best.
“As for Deanna, discussions with her and her agent are ongoing. Obviously it’s still more than two months before the season tips off. There is still time to get the contract secured. But, it’s too early to speculate the outcome.”
Richardson said he does expect Plenette Pierson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year’s opener, to remain with the team in Tulsa. Her contract extension was announced along with Nolan and Smith.
Pierson and Cheryl Ford will make up the core of the team along with Shavonte Zellous, the team’s third-leading scorer last season as a rookie. Tulsa also acquired guard Scholanda Robinson in the dispersal draft of the Sacramento Monarchs’ former players.
Richardson intends to mold the team in the uptempo, “40 Minutes of Hell” style he used to win a national championship at Arkansas.
“We’ve got to upgrade from an athletic standpoint, people who can run the floor and play multiple positions,” Richardson said.
Associated Press freelance writer Dave Hogg in Detroit contributed to this report.