Shock Coach Bill Laimbeer skeptical of Sparks, WNBA
After the Sparks' 78-58 victory over the Detroit Shock on Saturday, it didn't take long for Detroit Coach Bill Laimbeer to start throwing haymakers.
It came just as quickly as when he stormed across the court after seeing Shock forward Plenette Pierson and Sparks forward Tina Thompson tangle for a rebound. While Pierson lay on the court nursing her right shoulder, Laimbeer voiced his displeasure to Sparks Coach Michael Cooper and Thompson.
"You can’t do that to players," Laimbeer said afterward. "You can’t intentionally pull them over your back like that and injure them. That’s not good."
"Plenette is targeted," he continued. "They targeted her today. That’s unfortunate to do. Tina did it on purpose. There’s no question about that. There’s no secrets in basketball. She had her and took advantage of her."
Cooper and Thompson shared a different take. Interestingly, when the question was posed to Cooper and various players, they immediately suggested to consider the source.
Thompson: "Bill knows better than that. I’ve never intentionally hurt or fouled anyone in the game. Bill says a lot of things that don't make sense. That’s just who he is. I don’t take it personal. I have respect for him and his players on that team."
Cooper: "Bill is always going to have a different take on things. Bill is a different kind of person and he’ll think the other team is the wrong team. But it was a play that happened with two players. I don’t know what happened on the play. I’m going to look at it and see. It looks like they got tangled up. Hopefully Plenette is doing [well]. It’s unfortunate that any player got hurt, especially her."
Laimbeer said Pierson's aggravated right shoulder injury is season-ending, meaning Los Angeles will see a similar undermanned Detroit team when the two teams play again today at 4:30 p.m. The Shock also has forward Cheryl Ford (knee injury) and center Kara Braxton (six-game suspension after pleading guilty to an off-season drunk-driving charge) on its inactive roster.
That means Detroit has eight active players, which can spur the Shock to petition to the league to add more players. The Shock's case is a trickier situation, however, because Braxton's absence isn't injury related. After Braxton serves her second-game suspension today, the Shock can opt to replace her for the remaining four games so long as it fits within the confines of Detroit's salary cap.
Laimbeer shared similar skepticism about the league. Consider the following exchange:
Laimbeer: "We asked the league if we could replace players and they said not the Shock. You have to be down to six or seven."
Reporter: "They said eight."
Laimbeer: "They won’t let us. That’s the way they are."
Reporter: "Why do you think that?"
Laimbeer: "We’re the Shock."
Although Saturday's entanglement didn't escalate into anything like last year's brawl, the double foul and the barbs afterward certainly added to the heated rivalry that dates back to Cooper's and Laimbeer's days in the NBA. Cooper was a top defender for the Lakers when they faced Laimbeer and the rest of Detroit's "Bad Boys" in the 1988 and 1989 NBA Finals.
Today, the Shock will raise the 2008 championship banner before tipoff. It should add to another interesting chapter.
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer was not amused by a call during a WNBA game last season. Now, he's unhappy with a recent incident with the Los Angeles Sparks. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press.