(photo credit: AP)
AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (AP) - Cheryl Ford led the Detroit Shock back to the WNBA finals with a tenacious style that is reminiscent of her dad, 14-time NBA All-Star Karl Malone.
That is all well and good, but Ford, who played for Anda Ramat Hasharon in 2005/06, is not fond of such comparisons. "Like I said before, I'm just trying to do my own thing, make my own name," she said on Tuesday after practice at The Palace.
The Shock will face the defending champion Sacramento Monarchs in the best-of-five finals that began Wednesday night.
Malone sat courtside and watched his daughter help Detroit win the WNBA title three years ago, during her rookie season. He covered his eyes as the power forward sank four key free throws in the final minute of the decisive third game against Los Angeles, then embraced her when it was over.
With all the numbers and accolades Malone garnered during his career, Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said Ford can be even better than her father. "Cheryl Ford arguably has been our most valuable player all year long. Her rebounding has been so consistent, she leads the league in rebounding," he said. "Her inside presence, being able to score has been more than we expected this year."
Much like the 2003 title team, Laimbeer's squad rolled through these playoffs with a dominating inside game, anchored by Ford. She is also averaging 11.8 rebounds in the playoffs.
"She's a beast," said teammate Katie Smith, an All-Star guard. "The sky is the limit for her. It's fun to be on the floor with somebody who competes, especially rebounding. You don't have to worry about the rebounding too much because she can corral most of those."
Star forward Swin Cash felt the Shock could get back to the finals after Smith and Kara Braxton were acquired last season to complement her, Ford, Riley and the speedy Deanna Nolan, who also played for Anda Ramat Hasharon in 2005/06. "We had a magical time in 2003," she said. "Once you get an opportunity like this, you've got to make the best of it. Two times we didn't make it, so we don't want to be in that situation again."