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Shock era in Tulsa comes to close with first-round sweep

Watching Saturday's night's WNBA playoff doubleheader, I couldn't help but think of the differing fates of two franchises and their cities.

Indiana beat Chicago 89-82 to extend their series to a deciding third game Monday in the Windy City. Tulsa, however, was not able to do the same against Phoenix. The defending champion Mercury won 91-67 and move on to the Western Conference finals, where they await the Minnesota-Los Angeles winner.

Now next season, the Shock will pack up and go to Dallas, or more specifically, Arlington, Texas. You could tell how much the Shock players deeply appreciated the loyal fans who kept showing up at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this season even after they knew the team would be theirs only a little longer.

But the players have to move on. Maybe some of the fans will move on with them, not literally but emotionally. They'll commit to a long-distance relationship and perhaps even make some trips to Arlington.

However, the unfortunate truth is that for a lot of Shock fans, this goodbye was truly goodbye. It's just the reality of the situation.

And it made me reflect on how a few years back, there was anxiety about the Fever. Before the start of the 2012 season, Pacers/Fever owner Herb Simon indicated ambivalence about the Fever because he wanted to see them have a bigger foothold in the community and for their attendance to improve.

Well, we know how that season turned out. The Fever's players and coaches never said they were playing to save the franchise, but you sensed it was there in the back of everyone's minds. The Fever went on the road for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals and won at Connecticut, then defeated favored Minnesota in four games in the WNBA Finals. It was pretty amazing to watch.

I really don't know whether Simon was serious about potentially abandoning the Fever, but thankfully we never had to find out. The team's championship and the boost it provided the franchise clearly made a lot of difference.

The Fever travel for Game 3 on Monday when they will try to do to Chicago what the Sky did to them last year in the East finals: clinch their series on the road. But whether the Fever are able to move on this year, there is still a strong sense this organization is on solid ground and will remain there.

Meanwhile in Tulsa, the Shock knew they couldn't change the franchise's fate no matter what happened in this postseason. Even if they had improbably pulled off three series victories in a row and found themselves the WNBA champions, they were still headed to Texas.

We can speculate now that Shock majority owner Bill Cameron seemed to have his mind made up even before this season started. It was officially announced in July. Not exactly a great way to maintain attendance. But kudos to the fans who still showed up.

The Shock players seemed to do the best they possibly could to not think about any of this. Coaches always talk about staying in the present and controlling what you can control, and Fred Williams certainly passed on that message to his team. They listened. The Shock had all kinds of reasons why they could have just fallen apart this season, but that didn't happen. The players and coaching staff wouldn't allow it.

There was a sense of finality for the Shock on Saturday, even though the franchise lives on. Of course, we don't know if they will still be called the Shock, or what color their uniforms will be, or how they'll be received in Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington. We do know they're a team with a lot of young talent, all the more so when a healthy Skylar Diggins is able to rejoin them.

The Shock management made some wrong moves, the draft lottery didn't favor the franchise and the team just didn't win much when it was in Tulsa.

But in the end, there was a real commitment on the part of the Shock players and fans to each other, and on Saturday, that was an admirable, if bittersweet, thing to see.