8:00 PM ET, June 4, 2011
The Tulsa Shock showed they were willing to make some high-risk moves when they signed Olympic sprinter Marion Jones last year. While their most recent addition may have raised some eyebrows as well, it's not without cause.More than two years since her last WNBA game, Sheryl Swoopes returns to the court when the Shock open the season by visiting the San Antonio Silver Stars on Saturday night.Swoopes was one of the WNBA's highest-profile players during the league's early years. However, after winning four titles with the Houston Comets, she struggled with injuries and was limited to three games with the Comets in 2007 because of back problems before suffering a concussion late in 2008 with Seattle.She was waived by the Storm after averaging a career-low 7.1 points in 29 games.The three-time league MVP was hoping to return last season, but was unable to find a team. Tulsa, which went a league-worst 6-28 in 2010, signed her in March for undisclosed terms.Swoopes, who turned 40 on March 25, is among the all-time league leaders in points (seventh with 4,604), steals (third with 632), minutes played (third with 9,712) and assists (T-13th with 961)."Even at my age, I can honestly say physically my body feels better than it's probably felt in the last two or three years I played in the WNBA," Swoopes said. "If I personally felt like I couldn't do it, I wouldn't be putting myself in this position."So there's not a doubt in my mind that I still can compete on this level."Jones was also re-signed after averaging 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in less than 10 minutes per game last year.Tulsa is hoping to follow a similar path to Atlanta, which went 4-30 in its first season in 2008, made the playoffs the following year and reached the WNBA finals in 2010. The Shock have no holdovers from the franchise's time in Detroit, but there's reason for optimism with the leadership of Swoopes and the potential of 19-year-old Australian Liz Cambage, picked second in this year's draft."I thought toward the end of (2010) we were beginning to have chemistry," said coach Nolan Richardson. "We weren't as bad as we were with losing the ball or turning it over as much. We settled in a lot better, players got to understand each other a little bit toward the end. We didn't actually win a lot of ball games, but we were right there."San Antonio will have coach Dan Hughes back on the bench after a disappointing season saw it go 14-20 and lose to Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals. Hughes, also the general manager, coached the team from 2005-09, but was solely GM last season while Sandy Brondello served as coach.The Silver Stars finished last in the league in rebounds per game (30.1) and 11th in blocks (2.5), and the inside game may be a struggle with emerging center Jayne Appel sidelined to start the season following arthroscopic knee surgery.Scoring doesn't figure to be a problem, however, with Sophia Young (15.3 points per game in 2010) and Becky Hammon (15.1) returning. The Silver Stars also added Jia Perkins, who averaged 10.7 points with Chicago last year, and Scholanda Robinson, who averaged 11.9 with the Shock.The Silver Stars won four of last year's five meetings.