<
>

Skylar Diggins' Injury Another Kick In Gut For Shock

In October 2008, the Detroit Shock won their third WNBA title, putting them runner-up only to the Houston Comets in league championships. And then ... well, apparently someone involved with the Shock shattered a mirror. Traditionally, we know that brings seven years of bad luck, if you actually believe in such things.

You don't? Well, neither do I, except if anything was going to convince me of the validity of that ancient superstition, the Shock's past seven years might do it. It's nothing short of freakish how many things have gone badly for the Shock, who moved from Detroit to Tulsa in 2010, a trail of broken mirror glass in their wake.

The latest gut punch was confirmed Wednesday night: Shock star guard -- and one of the faces of the WNBA -- Skylar Diggins will miss the rest of the season with a right ACL tear.

I think I speak for everyone who follows the WNBA when I say, "ARRRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!"

It's the bad news many feared after it was announced that Diggins, who was hurt in Sunday's victory over Seattle, would not make the team's current four-game road trip in order to have her knee evaluated.

What initially was listed as a sprain is instead yet another occurrence of the injury that has been so destructive to women's basketball. Those dreaded three letters: A-C-L.

Upon hearing of the seriousness of Diggins' injury, I found myself thinking yet again of the lousy luck the Shock has experienced since that 2008 title. Coach Bill Laimbeer resigned early in the 2009 season. Then the Detroit Pistons ownership opted to get out of the WNBA at the end of that season.

It was good news that the franchise was wanted by buyers in Tulsa. But there were also four key players who won titles in Detroit but chose to have no part of that move and never did play for the Shock in Oklahoma: Katie Smith, Deanna Nolan, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Cheryl Ford. It also meant the Shock transferred from the East to the West, which has been the more powerful conference in recent years. West teams have won four of the five titles since the Shock's relocation. Not coincidentally, the Shock hasn't made the playoffs in that time.

Tulsa's first coach and general manager, Nolan Richardson, perhaps got the team some extra initial media coverage because of the name he'd built in men's college basketball. But Richardson was trying to learn the women's game on the fly while being GM, and that resulted in some trades that did not help the franchise. The Shock are now on their third coach since Richardson resigned during the 2011 season.

Then, there's the cruelty of the lottery balls. The Shock had the worst record in the league in 2010 and 2011, and was a lottery team its other three seasons in Tulsa, too. But not once in the five ensuing drafts did the Shock get the No. 1 pick.

Maya Moore went No. 1 to Minneapolis in 2011; the Shock took Liz Cambage at No. 2. Nneka Ogwumike went No. 1 to Los Angeles in 2012; the Shock's first pick was No. 4 Glory Johnson. Neither of those picks is currently with Tulsa.

Cambage, from Australia, has mostly avoided the WNBA, playing just 53 games since being drafted and none since 2013. Johnson has been an effective player for Tulsa, but is sitting out this season because she's pregnant -- after a couple months of drama that included her 28-day marriage to Brittney Griner, who, by the way, was the WNBA's No. 1 pick in 2013, by Phoenix.

That's the draft in which the Shock got Diggins at No. 3, and she's been the best thing that's happened to the franchise since it moved to Tulsa. Diggins brought her Notre Dame winning ways and her beyond-basketball popularity to the Shock, and won the WNBA's most improved player award in her second season last year.

Diggins was joined in the backcourt by Baylor grad Odyssey Sims, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft. This season, led by Diggins and WNBA veteran coach Fred Williams, the Shock were the top team in the league at 8-1 as of Sunday.

Really! The doormat-no-more Shock. The team that had so little go right -- plagued even by a staph-infection issue that impacted seven Tulsa players from 2010-12 -- was finally riding high. Maybe it was at last Tulsa's turn.

Now, Diggins is gone for the rest of the season. Sims has played just three games because of a knee injury. The Shock have gotten some solid play from a veteran who was with two of their title teams in Detroit -- forward Plenette Pierson -- along with the steal of the 2012 draft, guard Riquna Williams, a second-round pick.

But how do they make up for Diggins' scoring, defense, passing, leadership and personality? Without her on Tuesday, the Shock lost at Seattle. And now they have to avoid going into what would be an understandable tailspin. They're without their best player and have five of their next six games on the road.

This will be a huge test of resolve, and that doesn't seem fair for a franchise that's already seen more than its share of adversity. But that's what the Shock are facing. Diggins will do her best to continue her leadership from the bench, and if anyone can be effective in that role, it's her.

This is a tough, tough blow for Tulsa. At least if that broken-mirror thing really is true, the seven years are almost up.