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WNBA / MIKE TERRY

Laimbeer Back on Fast Track

June 11, 2005|MIKE TERRY

Look out, WNBA, Bill Laimbeer's getting back that feeling, the one he had when the Detroit Shock rolled to the WNBA championship in 2003.

The Shock was the league's last unbeaten team before losing at home to Seattle on Wednesday, and it is off to the kind of start that suggests it could be a dominating team.

Before Friday's 69-55 victory over Charlotte, Detroit was averaging 71.8 points and giving up 69. But more impressive has been the rebound differential. Through its first five games, the Shock collected 40 boards a night, opponents only 32.4.

And the Shock, now 5-1, is doing it without its captain and All-Star forward Swin Cash, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered last year.

Just as important to Laimbeer, the Shock has rediscovered a swagger that was missing from last season's 17-17 squad.

"The biggest difference, so far, is attitude, intensity and chemistry," Laimbeer said.

"Attitude is knowing you're good and you're going to win. Intensity is showing up at the start of the game and keeping intensity throughout the game. And for chemistry, everyone has to get along and be on the same page."

How all this will play out remains to be seen. Connecticut and Indiana appear to be prepared to challenge Detroit in the East. Should Washington or New York earn the fourth playoff slot, either could make an interesting first-round opponent.

That's something else Laimbeer says he has gotten through to his team -- don't take anything for granted.

"The league is very competitive," Laimbeer said. "Every night you have to play to win. There are no more easy games out there.

"I think the women's game has definitely gotten more athletic. Our league is still fundamental, but you are seeing the teams that push the ball and score more having more success. And I think you will find that teams that have gotten off to a bad start with late-arriving personnel have really hurt themselves because the league is much better."

If the Shock is indeed championship material, will Laimbeer be around to see it happen? He has had an interview with former Detroit Piston teammate and New York Knick President Isiah Thomas regarding the Knicks' vacant coaching job. And what if Larry Brown bolts the Pistons after the NBA championship series with San Antonio?

The Laker job probably is the only one in which Laimbeer doesn't have a great interest. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't return their phone calls.

"I've made no secret that I would like to coach in the NBA," Laimbeer said. "The ladies are aware of that, and also supportive. I enjoy my time with them, but they understand someday I will [leave]. Whether now, or next year or two years, the timetable is unclear.

"That's why we are trying to build a team able to handle the loss of any player or coach."

*

In retrospect, when Michelle Snow threw down her celebrated dunk in college, it might have been one of the worst things that happened to her career. It dramatically raised expectations about her game at Tennessee and about her play in the WNBA after she was drafted by Houston.

Those expectations weren't being met in her first three seasons. The 6-foot-4 Snow was a good player, averaging 7.4 points, but not a dominant forward-center who could take over a game.

"Too often people were more focused on that than my overall game," Snow said of the dunk. "I've said attention is attention, good or bad. You want the attention in college because you want to become a pro player. But I knew I also had to make people realize there was more to my game."

That realization is coming. Including Friday's loss to Connecticut, Snow is averaging 13.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. She has averaged 15.2 points in her last six games since opening the season with a six-point performance May 21 at San Antonio. The usual reasons for improvement are there -- hard workouts in the off-season, and maturation at 25. But Snow said she also is playing with a clear head. She was distracted and despondent in 2004 over the death of her mother Rosa Snow, who lost a 13-year battle with lupus last May.

"Mentally I was never completely there last season," Snow said. "I had a great relationship with my mom, and I know she's in a better place. Now I can really focus on the game. I can just play. I'm happier."

She said she felt depressed while dealing with her mother's illness, and the Comets helped her seek therapy. She said it was the best thing for her.

"I didn't put it out there. I didn't want it as an excuse," Snow said. "But I learned if something like that is going on in your life, get help. You can't just keep holding it in. And I hope if other people are feeling like that, that they will get the help they need."

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