Ros' Camp Diaries: Regular Season Approaches!

May 21, 2013

I started this diary by writing, "New faces, new system…" Anytime you combine those two you can expect a big learning curve and many bumps in the road before things start to click and smoothen out. The Liberty started their preseason game schedule with two losses on the road but finished strong with a win at home. In game one vs. Connecticut they showed they were capable of a big rally from behind, cutting a 21-point deficit down to 6 points before the end of the game. Against Chicago they struggled as Cappie Pondexter just joined the team after arriving late from Turkey. They also played without Cheryl Ford, Plenette Pierson and Katie Smith. In their third and final preseason game, a second matchup against the Connecticut Sun, the Liberty showed improvement in their understanding of the offense and defense, individual players looked more comfortable, and while they were still without Pierson and Ford, they managed a win.

The Liberty have found success rebounding the ball, despite missing key post players. Coach Laimbeer is pleased with the rebounding of his perimeter players and points to them as a major reason the Libs are outrebounding their opponents. While Laimbeer figures out his guard rotation and continues to implement his strategy on the court, the team has struggled to hold on to the ball. New York improved since turning the ball over 29 times in the first preseason game. Ultimately, there are many pieces to this season's Liberty squad that have good potential but are still in progress. They've experienced growth, yet there will still be many more jumps in fluidity to come. While sitting in on training camp I've appreciated watching players make individual jumps in understanding and comfort. In particular, I've watched the following players "emerge" during training camp.

Kamiko Williams. Williams is a guard with good size, especially at the point. She's enjoyed many reps this preseason at the point guard position and Coach Laimbeer likes what he sees developing in her. In today's practice she made numerous "heads-up" passes off of penetration. She is good at penetrating and kicking out for a teammate's jumper. While the team was scrimmaging the male practice players, she hit a clutch "go-ahead" shot at the end of the scrimmage as the shot clock expired. In the final preseason game against Connecticut, Kamiko endured active ball pressure from Renee Montgomery as she dribbled down the court. She handled Montgomery's defense and was still able to get the team into the offense. Williams had a few aggressive moves for her own shot during the game, too.

Kelsey Bone. Bone went from looking meek in the first preseason game to looking aggressive and comfortable by the time the third preseason game rolled around. She is now asking for, even demanding for the ball in the paint as she posts up big. She is strong, agile and LOVES to bang the ball inside. With Ford and Pierson sitting out Bone has received increased reps, and thus, increased confidence. She occasionally misses close up shots, but is showing she is not afraid to attack one on one at the rim. She is better closer to the basket than she is a few steps away from the rim. Her midrange jumper is not yet "reliable" and she is acquiring new footwork skills. The coaches as working tirelessly with her on this part of her game. Defensively she is continuing to learn and works hard. Against Connecticut at home Bone showed some ability to make good passes out of the post. Kelsey has improved steadily throughout training camp.

Alex Montgomery. Montgomery has done well in preseason games. She is more aggressive when looking for her shot, yet at the same time more in control of her body. Her jump shot appears more consistent. In the past two seasons Montgomery has been described as a player with good potential and it seems that some of that potential is now being realized in her third WNBA season. She has the strength to play as a small forward but her speed and ball handling abilities make her dangerous as a very big guard. She's shown good defensive intensity in spurts; she should continue to grow defensively to improve her value. During today's practice she made a great pass in traffic and yelled loudly in excitement. I can't recall ever hearing or seeing so much emotion from Alex on the court before. This is a good sign. Teresa Weatherspoon stood sideline and applauded Alex's outburst saying, "Love the energy! Love the emotion!"

Essence Carson. Carson's already strong defense looks even better this season. She is maximizing her length and athleticism with newfound ferocity. She looks more active on defense and gets her hands on the ball in many ways. Whether it's a steal, deflection or block, Carson forces her opponent to alter her plan on offense. Carson enjoyed solid offensive showings towards the end of the preseason schedule. She looks incredibly confident, rarely hesitating on her shot or second-guessing her shot the way we would see her do at times last season.

Katie Smith. Smith looks better with each practice. Her comfort level with the team allows her to be vocal, often asking questions or pointing out something to the other players. During the games you can hear her on the court yelling out to the rookies where they need to be. She may be the most vocal guard on the court. However, Katie is proving she's much more than a vocal leader. She plays the one through four positions for this team; her versatility is a major luxury for coach Laimbeer. Throughout training camp she has knocked down her three-point shot and mid range jumper time and time again. If she stays consistent she will help open up the lane for more drives.

Cappie Pondexter. With her overseas season extended due to winning the Turkish league championship, Pondexter was last to camp. She had lots of catching up to do as far as learning the new system. While Pondexter claims she's mostly caught up, coach Laimbeer notes that she has more learning to do and that is the main reason he has yet to run her at the one (lead). Pondexter joined the team looking leaner after losing ten pounds since last season. She says she feels quicker and mentally is in a great place… a competitive place. Pondexter has high goals for this season, for both the team and for herself… and Laimbeer does, too. With each practice Pondexter looks more and more comfortable and her teammates appear increasingly aware of how to find her and set her up. Cappie is finding the seam with increased speed and she makes many "crowd pleasing" passes in traffic to cutting teammates. She is also a great rebounder from the perimeter.

Injury Report:
Plenette Pierson is out with a right knee sprain; she is listed as day to day.
Cheryl Ford is out with right knee pain; she is listed as day to day.

That's it for now, Liberty and WNBA fans!
Follow on Twitter: @nyliberty and me, @Rosgo21


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