Bill Laimbeer On Potential Roster Moves
What was the agenda for your trip to Istanbul, Turkey?
My primary objective was to have a face-to-face conversation with Cappie Pondexter in order to make sure that we both understood the task at hand and who we need to be as a team this year. I also wanted to eyeball Janel McCarville and understand who she is. Her player rights are still the property of the New York Liberty. I wanted to link up with (restricted free agent) Essence Carson, too, but unfortunately her game was rescheduled and we ran out of time. I was supposed to be in Istanbul for a total of 40 hours, but a snow delay pushed us eight hours behind and I only had 32 hours to operate. I also had a chance to watch and chat with (unrestricted free agent) Cheryl Ford and (restricted free agent from the Atlanta Dream) Angel McCoughtry.
Explain the situation with Essence Carson?
Essence is a restricted free agent this year, which means that we have the ability to match any offer that is made to her from another team, if she accepts that offer. I’ve watched her on film and like what I’ve seen. She plays long and is solid on defense. Let me put it this way - she’s not going anywhere based on money. She was a maximum salary player for us last season, so we won’t let anyone take her away from us because of money. It’s a decision of whether she likes where she is.
What was your evaluation of Cappie Pondexter’s game that day?
Cappie took over the game when she had to, as I expected her to. I thought the coach used an interesting substitution pattern in the first half and didn’t use Cappie too much early. In the second half she played a lot as the game got closer. She scored a lot when the team needed her to, again, as I expected.
When you met with Cappie, what was the first thing you said to her?
I said, “Hey, what’s up!” (Laughs).
What was your first impression of Cappie?
She’s not the tallest player in the world. However, I think she’s a very knowledgeable basketball player and I believe she understands the game well. She clearly wants to be successful in New York. She is the best player on the roster and I told her it’s time for her to take over and be the best she can be this year. I said earlier that I think she can be at the top of the league in points and assists and nothing has changed. That was the expectation before watching her play and it is still the expectation now.
How did Janel McCarville play?
Janel is not a selfish player. She passes the ball very well. One thing that stood out was her teammates’ body language towards her- they seem to like her well. While her team lost to Cappie’s, I felt that she did her part and played her role.
Does McCarville want to return to the WNBA?
That is open for debate. I’m unclear. I talked to her and she enjoys her time off. She doesn’t like to play year-round like some players do. She is intrigued by the situation going on in New York with a new coaching staff. It’s unclear what direction she’s going in at the moment. If she’d like to play somewhere other than New York then that is ok. I don’t want to stand in the way. We would try to figure it out for her. It’s about the players.
What are our chances of getting Angel McCoughtry?
I enjoyed the chance to watch and chat with Angel. I’d be on the pessimistic side of chances that McCoughtry joins the Liberty. Atlanta can match any contract therefore you can’t take her with money. We’d have to offer a package that Atlanta would be willing to consider to trade for. I’d be doubtful that Atlanta lets go of Angel. (**Note that as of press time, McCoughtrey re-signed with the Atlanta Dream.)
Are you excited about Kara Braxton’s potential for the Liberty this season?
Absolutely I can get excited about Kara. She is very talented. She’s nearly 6’6, runs well, and is powerful. She brings a great package and I know her game very well having coached her in Detroit. Kara has to work very hard in concentration to get the most of her ability. Sometimes she looses track of her concentration. She knows that, I know that, we’ll have to focus on it. I like Kara a lot; she is one heck of a person and we have a good relationship. She is the type of player that I get along with.
How many players can fans expect to see changed before the start of the season?
On average fans can expect two to three player moves each season. When there are coaching changes or style-of-play changes, fans might see an additional one or two player moves. It all depends on different scenarios. Free agency and the draft will dictate what the roster changes will be. There are a ton of different variables.
How challenging do you anticipate meshing new faces and a new system within a short amount of time will be for you?
That’s not hard at all. The chemistry is the first thing that a coach needs to attack. I have to make sure I get the right players. We need to have a relationship in which we all believe in each other and we have to create an environment conducive to success. On the court we have to buy into the system. It starts with defense. Our offense will simply be taking advantage of the personnel we have by designing opportunities for players. It all has to be something we feel good about.