The Washington Times - August 6, 2009, 10:19PM

The Detroit Shock’s season has been somewhat of a mess thus far. Heading into the season, there was no indication that the defending champions wouldn’t thrive in the Eastern Conference again.

But coach Bill Laimbeer resigned three games into the season, and the Shock have played to a rather pedestrian 7-10 record this year. But despite the Shock’s struggles, and even though the Mystics won the only meeting so far this year, coach Julie Plank said she still sees them as a “playoff team.”

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That’s mainly because the Shock still have the dangerous backcourt duo of Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan. Detroit is tied with fourth-place Atlanta in the loss column, so a turnaround that lands it in the playoffs isn’t out of the question.

“It’s always a challenge to play against players who know the game, who’ve been around the game for a long time,” Matee Ajavon said. “Sometimes you take things out of their game and try to add it on to your game. But while we’re on the court, it’s competitive.”

Plank took advantage of the Mystics’ light week with a series of rigorous practices, just as she prefers.

“It was nice to get in the gym and practice,” coach Julie Plank said. “We had five games in 11 days, so a lot of those [practices] were pretty low-energy and short.

“For our team being fairly new, the practice time is invaluable for us.”