For the second year in a row, Kara Braxton has found herself packing her bags just before the WNBA trade deadline. Less than 12 months ago she was brought in by Phoenix in the hope that she’d be the necessary final piece to win another championship, at the expense of a first-round draft pick. This time, they’ve given her away for the very last player on the end of the New York Liberty bench. What a difference a year makes.
Braxton is an enormously frustrating player. For someone with such a huge frame, she actually moves fairly well in the paint (although often not from one end of the floor to the other). She can be an efficient scorer inside, she’s got some range, and she’s not afraid to use that big body to fight it out for rebounds. But it comes at a price. While she’s been better in recent years, she was well known in her Detroit years for boneheaded errors that cost her team points, possessions and momentum. At times, she’s a turnover waiting to happen. It’s only so annoying because you can see frequent flashes of just how gifted she is, which makes the mistakes all the more disappointing. And that’s just the negatives on the floor.
Braxton missed Tuesday’s game in Minnesota due to a one-game suspension for ‘conduct detrimental to the team’. Exactly what that was still remains a matter of speculation, but some reports suggest she ‘mouthed off’ to head coach Corey Gaines. Reportedly she wasn’t at practice on Thursday, but there was no information as to whether she just didn’t show up, or if the team told her to stay away. It’s far from the first time that Braxton has had behavioural issues. She was thrown off the team at the University of Georgia after multiple suspensions for conduct issues. She’s been suspended twice in the WNBA, for a total of eight games, for DUI convictions. It’s left her with a reputation as something of a malcontent and headcase which can hardly be considered undeserved, and makes the recent events in Phoenix unsurprising. But they knew all this coming in. The Mercury traded for her despite all the baggage, considered her worth a draft pick that they knew was going to be mid-first round (eventually 7th overall, which became Kayla Pedersen), and then gave her a max-level contract extension through 2012. Either Corey Gaines’s skin has grown awfully thin, or there was more to this than a little mouthing off. Continue reading