In 2016, the New York Liberty finished with the best overall record (21-13) in the Eastern Conference and earned themselves a first-round bye under the newly implemented playoff format.
While perennial MVP candidate Tina Charles stole most of the headlines for the East’s top team, and rightfully so, Sugar Rodgers quietly acted as the spark plug for what was one the league’s most explosive offenses.
A second round pick by the Minnesota Lynx in 2013, Rodgers arrived in the Big Apple the next year after a trade and immediately fit well with head coach Bill Laimbeer’s hard-nosed style of ball.
Over the course of a three-year stint with the Liberty, Rodgers has seen her points and assists per game increase each season. In 2016 Rodgers’ 14.5 points and 2.4 assists per game were career-highs, she also ascended into a regular in the starting lineup and assumed the role of floor general on a nightly basis.
Rodgers’ improvement last season came in tandem with the hasty maturation of fellow backcourt energizer bunny, Brittany Boyd. The Liberty entered this year with the stalwart that is Tina Charles in the frontcourt, but also the added of bonus of what looked like a prolific backcourt pairing of Rodgers and the aforementioned Boyd.
All that changed when Boyd tore her left achillies tendon against the Lynx on May 18th, an injury that will sideline her for the entirety of 2017 season.
Boyd’s injury left the Liberty without it’s starting point guard and the 13.0 points and 2.5 assists that she was putting up this season.
“Every person has to step up not just the people in the backcourt,” Rodgers told the media during a phone call on Friday. “I think Brittany is handling the situation very well, she’s the kind of individual that doesn’t feel sorry for herself and understands injuries are going to happen. If anybody is able to handle it she is. She’s still a part of this even though she got hurt.”
While it will take a collective team effort to overcome the absence of Boyd, no one will feel the pressure to step up more than Rodgers. She will now have to keep her trend of improving every season going and then some this year.
“I’m there to do whatever the coaches need me to do, whether that’s scoring or defense or rebounding. Whatever the team needs me to do I’m there to do it,” Rodgers said.
This mindset is exactly what Rodgers and the Liberty need if they want to continue making strides and ultimately reach their goal of competing for a WNBA Championship.
Sugar sputtered out of the gate in her first game without Boyd finishing with eight points against the Mercury, but she bounced back in New York’s most recent contest going for 21 points and knocking down 6-of-11 shots from beyond the arc.
Overall, the squad is 1-1 without Boyd in the lineup, which is too small of a sample size to make any kind of informed judgement on what her loss will truly mean. But, it’s safe to say that the Liberty’s ultimate success, or lack thereof, in 2017 will have a lot to do with how Sugar Rodgers gets it done on both ends of the floor.
If anyone is ready for the challenge, it’s her.