Summertime in Tulsa normally can't be considered one of the more exciting times of the year, particularly on the sports front.
The heat is oppressive, the mosquitoes are biting and everyone is anxiously awaiting the arrival of fall and football season. However, this summer—and more in the future—an unlikely source could give Tulsans a reason to be excited, a source that has previously been a point of ridicule and even embarrassment.
Yes, the Tulsa Shock could actually be something worth seeing this summer in Tulsa, thanks to progressive improvement over the past two years and the addition of new point guard Skylar Diggins.
Diggins has already had a huge impact on the Shock without even stepping on the court. Her huge presence on Twitter—she has almost 380,000 followers on the social media platform—has allowed her to promote her new team in a way it hasn't been promoted before.
The Shock do not release the number of season tickets sold per season, but a team spokesperson said ticket sales have increased every season the team has been in Tulsa. However, this season, ticket sales have been on a greater increase than normal, presumably thanks to the Shock drafting Diggins.
The attendance figures for the Shock since the team arrived in Tulsa also support that fact, as attendance has increased every season, beginning with 4,812 fans per game in the Shock's first season and rising to 5,203 fans per game last season.
The Shock arrived in Tulsa from Detroit in 2010 having appeared in four WNBA championship series from 2003-2008, winning three championships. After the Shock's last title in 2008, the team fell into a downward spiral, going from 22 wins to 18 to six, to ultimately bottoming out in 2011 with an abysmal 3-31 record.
After that season, Tulsa hired Gary Kloppenburg as head coach and added several important pieces in the offseason—notably, rookie forward Glory Johnson and guard Temeka Johnson. The results were instantaneous and very obvious to even the casual observer.
The Shock were much more competitive last season, ending the season being outscored just 84.2 to 77.2 as opposed to 2011's atrocious 82.1 to 69.2 per game averages. The Shock also got progressively better throughout the season, dropping the first nine games of the season and holding a 2-12 record after the first two months before finishing the season on a 7-13 run.
Tulsa wasn't astronomically better in the second half of the season, but the 7-13 record—including a three-game winning streak in September—meant Tulsa had accumulated more wins in a 20-game span than it had in a full season since 2009.
Now, with Diggins joining the Shock, the excitement level for the Shock has reached an all-time high in Tulsa—regardless of how easy that pinnacle may have been to attain.
The Shock has also done some very good things with the roster, bringing in Candace Wiggins—a close friend of Diggins—who won a WNBA title last season with Minnesota. Veteran Nicole Powell was also brought in. A career 10.5 points per game scorer, Powell brings much needed experience to the Tulsa locker room.
The veteran presence should help, but the influx of talent should help as well. The Shock allowed both point guards from the 2012 season—Ivory Latta and Temeka Johnson—to sign elsewhere in the offseason. Latta and Johnson were also the team's top two scorers. Diggins is definitely an upgrade as the starter, and Angel Goodrich, Tulsa's third-round draft pick out of Kansas, is a very good point guard in her own right.
Diggins isn't quite as focused on scoring as Latta was, but she can fill it up if she needs to. The important thing is her ability to lead the team on the court and distribute to other scorers.
The numbers show Tulsans are slowly becoming more interested in the Shock and investing themselves in the team. However, that interest looks like it's about to take off, thanks to an exciting franchise player and the progressive success of the team.
Maybe the doldrums of summer will be a little more exciting than usual going forward.