Ten Ways Plenette Pierson’s Return Benefits the NY LibertyBy Ros Gold-Onwude
After missing eight games due to a knee injury, many wondered, what would the New York Liberty get from power forward Plenette Pierson in her first game back in action? On Thursday, August 16th, the Liberty opened up the second half of the season against the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Connecticut Sun, making for a daunting challenge. New York made a strong statement with a convincing 79-66 win at home. Amongst the many things that went right for the Liberty was the 16-point, 4 rebound performance from Plenette Pierson. However, the stats alone don’t tell the full impact of Pierson’s return from injury. Allow me to explain just how much the Liberty benefitted the play of the Plenette Pierson.
Plenette Pierson provides instant attitude. She’s tough and doesn’t back down. That mind set propels her to beat opponents to the basket for points and rebounds. Her confidence and fire are contagious encouraging the team to make extra effort plays, yell with intensity, or even crack a smile in enjoyment of the game.
The Liberty played most of the first half of the season trying to make up for holes in the stat sheet. Pierson is the Liberty’s third leading scorer and second leading rebounder. If Pierson, Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson can average double digits for the rest of the season Liberty fans could see the creation of a “Big Three”. Pierson offers a nice complement to Kia Vaughn’s rebounding inside and works nicely in pick and roll situations with any guard given her versatile talent to both roll and finish or pop out high for jumper.
3) Second Chances
In the Connecticut game, Pierson used hustle to give the Liberty an extra opportunity or two at the basket by pulling down an offensive board or by sacrificing her body to lunge after the ball and keep it in play. These extra possessions resulted in points for the Liberty.
Plenette Pierson is an undersized post. She has made this her advantage by using her speed to beat bigger defenders to the rim. In Thursday’s game against Connecticut she immediately attacked Mistie Mims off the dribble for buckets.
5) Posts Play in Spurts
With Pierson back in the lineup, the post player rotation deepens allowing for more rest for our posts. Coach Whisenant’s “White Line” defense takes a lot of physical effort, particularly from the post players who are constantly fronting and rotating. While Pierson was out, the Liberty had to overplay certain post players. Now that she’s back, posts like DeMya Walker and Kara Braxton can play in spurts, go harder over shorter lengths of time, and be even more efficient on the court.
6) Cappie’s Points Come Easier
Did you notice Cappie rarely had to go 1 on 5? That’s because the ball went inside and out. The Liberty displayed balance to their offense. Each player demanded the respect of the defense and loosened up the attention being paid to Cappie. Having a balanced attack from the perimeter and interior keeps the defense honest. It opens the paint up for both posts and guards to attack one on one and creates opportunities to pass out to shooters like Leilani Mitchell and Nicole Powell.
Pierson’s strength, speed and grittiness allow her to be a threat when defending on and away from the ball. On the ball against a post/foward she is quick enough to constantly reposition and deny her player the ball. Off of the ball she can move into help side defense swiftly. She adds versatility to the defense as she can also be called on to defend a big guard.
8) Runs the Floor
Against Connecticut Pierson showcased her skills at running the floor. She beat Mims, Jessica Moore and at times the entire defense down the court for easy run out layups. At times the Liberty struggled to score in the first half of the season, often slowing the game down in a half-court-set style offense. Pierson’s fast breaking abilities create quick scoring options in transition, adding to the Liberty’s offensive arsenal.
9) Free Throws
When discussing the Liberty’s free throw shooting, after Cappie Pondexter, there’s not much to write home about. To summarize: they don’t get to the line enough. Still, after Pondexter, Pierson is second on the team in free throw attempts. And she’s only played 11 of 19 games! She plays hard around rim and the fouls are bound to come. The Liberty need more of their points to come easier; the foul line is a great place to start.
10) Experience & Leadership
Let me remind you, Plenette Pierson is a well-recognized name in the league. She was the fourth overall pick of the 2003 draft, was named “Sixth Woman of the Year” in 2007 and won WNBA championships in 2006 and 2008 with the Detroit Shock. She knows what it takes to perform and win at the highest level. As the Liberty figure out what kind of team they will be in the second half of the season, her veteran leadership will be worth it’s value in gold.