Photo Taken By Robert Simmons of RTS Photography
Article By: Azarr Johnson
2018 was a rough season for the Liberty, matter of fact, it was one of the roughest seasons in franchise history. The Liberty started off with a 4-6 record and finished 3-21, with a record of 7-27. They finished 11th in the league standings, had a franchise low seven wins and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014, when Laimbeer took over for the first year of his coaching tenure there. These results all happened under the watch of new first year coach Katie Smith, who was an assistant on Laimbeers
coaching staff, but when you look back at it, last seasons results were not a surprise, considering all the changes /obstacles surrounding the team. First former owner James Dolan moves the team from Madison Square Garden to the Westchester County Arena, where the D League Westchester Knicks play, which resulted in a decrease in attendance , as if the WNBA needed that problem, especially in the New York market. Second even though Smith inherited Laimbeers team, that she assisted coaching and what was supposed to be a smooth transition, was not at all, because it was not her team. Smith wanted to run an uptempo pace, but was difficult to run, when you do not have the players to run that system, which resulted in similar story lines for most games. The Liberty would fall behind in a hole and then
spend their energy and most of the game trying to come back and end up losing in the end, which led to the horrible record at the end of the season. The only bright spot for the team was Tina Charles production for the team averaging 20 points and seven rebounds a game and because of their record
After the way the season ended, you knew their were gonna be changes. Enter new owner Joseph C. Tsai, who purchased the team and kept them in New York. Along with ownership, came a new general manager in Jonothan Kolb, who although kept the coaching staff of Smith, Williams and Weatherspoon, their were going to be changes made on the court. Wether it was Smiths decision or the GM, the team decided to go in another direction. Sugar Rodgers was traded to Las Vegas for Tanisha Wright in a four team trade, Ephiphany Prince, Kia Vaughn and Shavonte Zellous were all not resigned as part of their overhaul, but they did keep some of their core players, to help build a foudation. They resigned Rebecca Allen, who even though did not get alot of playing time last season, but has developed and played well in the preseason.
Amanda Zahui B and Kia Stokes were also kept as well, both play hard, tough and both are a defensive presence in the paint representing New York basketball. They also resigned franchise/ leader of the team Tina Charles who led the team in scoring and rebounds. The Liberty also showed that they are sticking with their young talent also, by keeping last years first round pick Kia Nurse, who last season showcased durability last season, playing all 34 games and was the second leading scorer on the team as a rookie. Boyd and Hartley were also kept on the team, they both compliment each other and when one is not playing the other one fills the void, they are a 1-2 punch.
Whenever you have one of the worse records in the league, it usually means you are going to have a high pick in the draft, usually a player that can have an immediate impact on your team (good or bad). It also means your drafting for the future, so the Liberty decided to draft Louisville guard Asia Durr, who can get her own shot, assist well making other players around her better and can blow by most defenders. The second round pick was China 6’9 rookie center Han Xu who is receiving alot of praise coming into the league. When you look at overall what the Liberty has done in the draft, they are definitely building a 1-2 punch for the future and to assist in the Liberty getting back to winning now. The only knock on the draft, was why did they not take Tearia McCowan, whos presence changes the whole game period or Uconn’s Samuelson or Collier , who have proven talent level. Also not to mention gems like Notre Dame guard Arike Ogunbowale, who can perform under pressure and can play at a high level winning a national title, not to mention this years national champion Kelani Brown was still on the board and Sophie Cunningham who is a scoring machine. Only they will know and only time will tell, if they made the right decision.
When you look at the overall changes, the Liberty made, their is no doubt, they are building their way back to their winning ways for now and the future . The only question is how soon, because when you look at the Eastern Conference alone, Connecticut is a young and upcoming team and they have made it clear that they are not going anywhere. Atlanta is always dangerous and somehow always ends up in the Eastern Conference championship or Finals. With McCourthy, Skyes and Bentley, their is no telling how far they can go, the Fever, although young, is coming after having a year of experience under their belt and they just added McCowan to the mix. The Thibeault led Mystics are always aiming for Eastern
Conference finals or championships at this point, how the Liberty can overcome all of this to win their conference, we shall see, stay tuned!