Tulsa Shock try to fight through mounting distractions
TULSA, Okla. (AP) The Tulsa Shock have had more than a season's worth of distractions just halfway through.
First, forward Glory Johnson was suspended seven games because of a domestic fight with fellow WNBA star Brittney Griner. After Johnson and Griner were married, Johnson announced she was pregnant and would miss the entire season.
Odyssey Sims, one of the league's top scorers and runner-up for rookie of the year last season, injured her left knee and missed a month. But things were still going OK with Sims out before Skylar Diggins, the Western Conference Player of the Month for June and the No. 2 vote-getter for the All-Star game - was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
And somehow, there was more.
After rumors that the team would leave Tulsa prompted the start of a ''Save Our Shock'' campaign, majority owner Bill Cameron announced plans to move the team to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Forward Plenette Pierson said the team has tried to block everything out.
''We have off-the-court distractions?'' Pierson said with a chuckle on Sunday, a day before Cameron's announcement. ''We kind of live in a bubble. We don't really hear much, unless it's brought to us, and not much has been brought to us. We just focus on basketball, you know, the Xs and Os, and we come to practice and go home and hang out with each other.''
Pierson said the players can't worry about the possible relocation.
''Those kinds of things are out of our hands,'' she said Tuesday. ''We still have half a season to play in Tulsa and we're going to give it our all. We're hoping the fans cling on to us.''
Coach Fred Williams acknowledges that it has been a challenge to keep his players focused and positive.
''It's been really tough, but we're trying to keep everybody on the straight and narrow - playoffs,'' he said. ''And that's where we want to be.''
Williams said the number of problems that could derail a season has been alarming.
''When a player goes down, it takes three or four games to really settle in, and when other things happen outside of basketball, it takes two or three more games or days to settle in,'' he said. ''As a coach, I have to keep them focused. My staff - I think we do good job of having them compete and play basketball, think basketball, and that's the only focus.''
The issues seem to have started taking their toll.
The Shock started the season with an 8-1 record. Now, Tulsa enters the All-Star break with a 10-8 record. All four losses in the skid have been by seven or fewer points.
''We're in all the games and getting the opportunity to win them all,'' said center Courtney Paris. ''Some of them, we should win, but it's just those little things, little mishaps we have keeping us from pulling out with the win. But we're fine. We just have to stay positive. That's the biggest thing and move forward.''
Even with all the problems, the team has drawn two of its best crowds of the season the past two games. On Sunday, the Save Our Shock campaign handed out 800 gold T-shirts, and attendance was 5,987. On Tuesday, attendance was 6,147.
''There was a very nice crowd today, very energetic,'' Pierson said Tuesday. ''The fans have been very supportive throughout.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.