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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shock's Smith carves out quite a career



By Gary Bond

September 23, 2008

AUBURN HILLS -- On a team where the coaches and owner arguably are more recognizable than the players, Katie Smith has become the the face of the Detroit Shock franchise.

Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, two imposing figures and former Detroit Pistons Bad Boys, are well-known Shock coaches.

William Davidson is the well-respected owner of the NBA's Pistons as well as the WNBA franchise. He was courtside Sunday afternoon at The Palace of Auburn Hills for Detroit's 89-82 overtime loss to the Indiana Fever in Game 2 that evened the best-of-three WNBA first round playoff series at 1-1.

Forward Swin Cash was the face of the Shock, but an off-season trade to Seattle took her out of the picture. That put the spotlight on Cheryl Ford, but injuries have sent her to the sideline. She tore the ACL in her right knee in July and was finished for the season. The WNBA 2003 rookie of the year had micro-fracture surgery on her left knee last season.

That leaves Smith, a three-time Olympic gold medal winner -- 2000 in Sydney, 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing -- front and center in the organization and leading this year's playoff charge.

"It's that challenge of going out every night and proving yourself," said Smith, who was scoreless in Game 1 against Indiana but bounced back and scored 15 points in the loss Sunday. "I think I have enough knowledge, and I think I understand the game and the different scenarios that it makes me a coach on the floor.

"I'll probably play a couple more years if the body feels good. Who knows?"

A 5-foot-11, 175-pound shooting guard from Ohio State, Smith is just the second player in WNBA history to score 5,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds and hand out 800 assists. Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks was the first.

The 34-year-old Smith is in her 10th WNBA season, her fourth with the Shock after six with Minnesota.

Smith and her Shock teammates are facing an elimination game tonight against the Fever, a team Detroit beat three times during the regular season and in the first game of the playoffs.

"We knew Indiana was going to come ready to play and that it would be harder than the first game."

"To sweep someone in a season, on this level, that's hard to do," Smith added. "We just have to play smarter and stay closer (on defense) to some people. It's going to be a tough game (Game 3) because we're very familiar with each other."

The Shock likely will be without Plenette Pierson tonight, after she went down with shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter Sunday. Guard Deanna Nolan was almost non-existent until hitting the 3-pointer with five seconds left in regulation that sent the contest into overtime. Laimbeer was disappointed with the play of his inside players.

Smith's leadership will be a major key tonight.

"We don't expect her (Pierson) to play the next game (tonight) for sure, and that hurts us badly," Laimbeer said. "I expect our team to come out and play much better than we did today. I expect our bigs to be involved in the game. I expected (center) Kara (Braxton) to come out and play well. I expect our bench to play better than they did today.

"I expect a lot of things. I expect us to win the basketball game, no question about it."

He can expect it will be Smith leading the way.

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