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Monday, March 28, 2011
Sheryl Swoopes signs with Tulsa

Associated Press

Sheryl Swoopes never hid her disappointment with how her first go-around in the WNBA ended.

The three-time MVP couldn't hide her excitement and appreciation for the second chance she received when signing with the Tulsa Shock on Wednesday.

"The only reason why I'm doing it is because I still love the game," Swoopes said during a conference call with reporters. "To be given an opportunity to come back and kind of leave on the right note, or just to be a part of it again, is something I'm excited about."

Sheryl Swoopes
Sheryl Swoopes looks to rewrite her WNBA ending after nagging back problems derailed her 2008 season in Seattle.

Swoopes, who turned 40 last week, returns after a two-year hiatus to the league she was a founding member of and once dominated. She helped lead Houston to the league's first four championships from 1997-2000 and won her last MVP in 2005.

Her last season in the league was in 2008 with Seattle. The Storm released her after she played while recovering from back problems that plagued her the previous year in Houston.

Swoopes continued playing overseas in Greece after that, frustrated that no other WNBA team would give her a chance when she felt she could still play.

Swoopes said Wednesday she has put any hard feelings toward the league behind her, and she's physically ready to help a Tulsa team that finished a league-worst 6-28 last season. She averaged 15.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game in her 11 seasons.

"Even at my age, I can honestly say physically my body feels better than it's probably felt in the last two or three years I played in the WNBA," Swoopes said. " If I personally felt like I couldn't do it, I wouldn't be putting myself in this position.

"So there's not a doubt in my mind that I still can compete on this level."

Nolan Richardson, Tulsa's coach and general manager, declined to say how much Swoopes would earn. He said the Shock considered signing Swoopes last season but the roster was already full.

Richardson said assistant coach Teresa Edwards, a former Olympic teammate of Swoopes, approached him about the possibility of signing the former MVP this offseason.

Swoopes decided to make the trip from her home in Houston to Tulsa last month for a workout under Richardson after Edwards called to gauge her interest in making a comeback. The workout included full-court and shooting drills as well as defensive work and Richardson came away impressed.

"Anybody who can work out for 20 minutes for me, that's a hell of a job," Richardson said. "That was enough for her to convince me that she can do it and she really wants to.

"I feel that she's dedicated enough to try to make a comeback. That's what it's all about to me, her getting her body ready to make a comeback."

The Shock made waves last season by signing former Olympic sprinter Marion Jones to a contract and re-signed her this offseason.

Richardson said he didn't promise Swoopes anything regarding playing time, though he does expect her to serve as a mentor for the Shock's younger plays. Swoopes was perfectly fine with that.

"For me, honestly, it's not about individual accomplishments, individual awards," Swoopes said. "It's about what I've got to do and how I can contribute to the team."

That said, Swoopes isn't above proving any doubters wrong that she can still contribute.

"I like to see people doubt me," she said.