In just two years, the Liberty's starting lineup has been completely transformed. None of the five starters from the 2005 squad are still with the team. Most notably, Becky Hammon, the face of the Liberty for the past few years, was traded during the offseason to San Antonio for the rights to rookie post player Jessica Davenport and a second-round pick in 2008. The team has gotten progressively worse since reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and finishing 18-16 during the regular season in 2004, sinking to a record of 11-23 this past year. In 2007, the new-look Liberty team will look to reverse this downhill trend.
Loree Moore and Sherill Baker will likely hold down the guard spots, and though they bring only three years of WNBA experience between the two of them, they've seen plenty of minutes on the court. They're both quick and can provide some scoring.
In her seventh year in the league, Barbara Farris contributed both as a scorer and on the boards. As the oldest player on the team, some of the young guns will look to Farris for guidance and wisdom.
Cathrine Kraayeveld is a 6-4 forward who brings a decent scoring touch she more than doubled her scoring output from her rookie season and some post presence. Erin Thorn and Ashley Battle can provide sparks off the bench.
NOT COMING BACK
Her name has been synonymous with the Liberty since 1999, and she was the team captain since 2004. But Lady Liberty Becky Hammon has gone south to San Antonio. And the Liberty will have big shoes to fill: Hammon has led the team in scoring every season since 2003. Though she was plagued by an ankle injury last season and played in only 20 games, she was a living Liberty legend. Whether it was intended to or not, this trade brings about a new era in New York.
Kelly Schumacher has also left the East Coast as she was traded to Phoenix for a second-round pick in 2008. She ranked 16th in the league with 25 blocked shots in 2006. Although they now lack an experienced center, New York is not particularly worried and looks forward to seeing its rookies blossom in the front court.
Via the Hammon deal and the 2007 draft, the Liberty have brought in Jessica Davenport, Tiffany Jackson, Shay Doron and Martina Weber, adding a fair amount of depth to the squad. But Jackson and Davenport are unlikely to be warming the bench for too long. Jackson is a forward with fantastic ball-handling skills who is a strong presence on both ends of the court. Highly athletic, aggressive and skilled, she will be a fun player to watch and should contribute right off the bat.
The pressure is also on for Davenport after the Liberty gave up their franchise player to acquire the Buckeye, who was the second overall pick in the draft. At 6-6, she has shown tremendous ability in the paint, averaging an impressive 17.7 ppg and 8.4 rpg over her four years at Ohio State. She is the first three time Big-Ten Player of the Year in conference history. In college, she excelled on the court and in the classroom, demonstrating her ability to focus and achieve. Like Jackson, her impact will need to be immediate, and she has a good chance to eventually start. Expectations will be high.
Another potentially major pickup for New York is young forward/center Janel McCarville, who they nabbed in the Charlotte Sting Dispersal Draft. Though her statistics her first two seasons in the league don't jump out at you, McCarville is considered to have a big upside and will likely see a lot of action in New York's young frontcourt.
New York's success this season will be largely dependent upon their young players' ability to adjust to the league and the team's ability to find a rhythm together on the floor. Their captain is gone, a new group of rookies is in and the playoffs are likely out. It could be a volatile season as the starting lineup may change several times before Coach Pat Coyle finds the most successful combination of players. Once the lineup is settled, the team should come together and fans will get a glimpse of the Liberty's bright future.