New York Liberty Season Preview
Cappie Pondexter will be bearing down and driving the Liberty in 2013.
PreviewNew York Liberty GM/Head Coach Bill Laimbeer has established a reputation over the years, dating back to his Bad Boys NBA playing days with the Detroit Pistons and then again during his WNBA coaching tenure with the Shock. He wins, but he isn't exactly the friendliest guy to compete with or against. Laimbeer's from the Old School, where you play hard, tell it like it is and move forward toward the only one real goal: a championship. Any niceties that may get in the way of reaching that goal are studiously avoided.
It's in this spirit that Laimbeer is looking to revamp the New York Liberty in 2013, one year after an up-and-down 2012 campaign where the squad struggled for periods, made a late regular-season run to snatch the final Eastern Conference playoff spot before succumbing to 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player Tina Charles and the Connecticut Sun in the postseason. "Anytime a team doesn’t win the championship, you must assess where the team is at, and decide to stay the course or make significant changes," said Laimbeer. "I felt significant changes were needed."
To that end, Nicole Powell and Kia Vaughn were moved out and Cheryl Ford, Katie Smith and the rights to Deanna Nolan, all three former Shock players of Laimbeer's during his first stint in the W, were acquired by New York. Additionally, the Liberty picked up three draft picks -- 6-4 forward/center Kelsey Bone (Texas A&M), 6-2 forward Toni Young (Oklahoma State) and 5-11 guard Kamiko Williams (Tennessee) -- who may stick with the team and contribute this season.
"You always want youth, not only for the energy, but for your future. These rookies will get a great education from the championship veterans that we have on the roster," said Laimbeer. "As far as my rookies, any rookie will tell you this when they get in the league and get in practice they look around and they're in awe of how big the players are and how fast they are and how strong they are."
"Once they get past that one, I think Kelsey Bone has done a fine job of adjusting quickly. You don't have to tell her twice on things. She wants to learn; she has a good work ethic; she picks up things very fast," said Laimbeer, who was then characteristically blunt his other first-round pick. "Young has been a little bit behind, but she's made really good progress in the last few days. She's gotten over the overwhelmed part from being from Oklahoma coming to a big city in New York. So she's starting to fit in a little bit better, and we're still very confident she's going to work out."
Another player who Laimbeer thinks will work out is All-WNBA guard Cappie Pondexter, who was a late arrival to camp after completing her off-season commitment in Turkey, which resulted in a rough first week of camp.
"We started off slow, the first week was not the best. Cappie wasn't here and it was like pulling teeth. The second week we improved, culminating with a win against Connecticut. I think every day we're getting better and better as practices go on. I think we're doing OK," said Laimbeer. "We put a whole new system in that she [Ponddexter] had no clue coming in. It will probably take her three or four weeks before she will catches up to the rest of them. Once that happens I have all the confidence in the world putting her out there as the lead guard."
And with Pondexter leading the way, the veteran leadership provided by Ford and Smith and the contributions from the younger players, look for the Liberty to compete with the same intensity and drive of their coach and make a playoff run in 2013.
1. Cappie Pondexter (20.4)
2. Plenette Pierson (12.0)
3. Essence Carson (11.6)
1. Plenette Pierson (5.4)
2. Kia Vaughn (5.0)
3. Cappie Pondexter (4.5)
1. Cappie Pondexter (4.3)
2. Leilani Mitchell (3.0)
3. Plenette Pierson (2.3)