Rebuild And Reload Is The Tale And Theme Of The 2019 New York Liberty
Spring has arrived and with that, so does New York Liberty basketball. After an awful 2018 season, the Liberty is poised to improve on a seven win season and restore hope in its fan base, that a championship will arrive in the near future. Liberty’s second-year head coach Kate Smith will also personally look to bounce back from a year of distractions and organizational turmoil.
After a lackluster preseason showing, where the liberty finished 1-3, there will be a lot of work to do for the iconic WNBA franchise that doesn’t want to admit their rebuilding.
Free Agency: Re-signed free agents Brittany Boyd, Rebecca Allen, and Amanda Zahui B; Signed free agents Marine Johannès, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, Bianca Cuevas-Moore, Tiffany Bias, Talia Caldwell, Reshanda Gray, and Kolby Morgan
Trade: Acquired Tanisha Wright from Minnesota for NY’s 2020 second round pick, Sent Sugar Rodgers to Las Vegas for LV’s 2020 second round pick as part of a four-team deal
Draft: Added Asia Durr (No. 2), Han Xu (No. 14) and Megan Huff (No. 26) in the 2019 WNBA Draft.
The Future Is Could Be Now For Liberty With Han XU
After taking Asia Durr in the first round, the Liberty used their second-round pick (No. 14 overall) to take Han Xu from China. The 6-foot-9 center is just 19 years old but is filled with raw talent that can be developed and size that simply can’t be taught. How much of an impact Xu will make on the court as a rookie is an unknown at this point (if Thursday’s 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks against the China National Team were an indication, then watch out); it will take time for her to adapt to not only the WNBA game but a new country, a new language, new teammates and coaches. This may be a long term play, but it could have a huge payoff at the end.
Sophomore Slump Isn’t An Option For Kia Nurse
The season and future of the Liberty could rest on the rookies, but the true energizer could come from the arms and legs of a sophomore. Kia Nurse had a bit of a roller coaster debut campaign. Her professional career began with double-figure scoring in six of her first seven games (including a 34-point showing in a win at Indiana). Afterward, however, she struggled to gain true traction in the lineup. During an eight-game stretch in July, Nurse averaged only 13 minutes a game. She began to take center stage once all was truly lost by August. To end the season, Nurse played all 40 minutes in the finale at Phoenix (scoring 28 on 9-of-16 shooting). She ended the year fifth in rookie scoring averages (9.1 PPG).
Brooklyn Zoo Coming Soon
After what felt like a “Garden” exile, the Liberty is now under the faithful watch of successful businessman Joseph Tsai. The Hong Kong-based billionaire is also the minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Tsai is committed to seeing the Liberty’s reputation as a sterling WNBA franchise restored.
Barclays Center will host one game this season, the August 11 visit from the Seattle Storm. Liberty players have set up their homes in the area. The team practices on the campus of St. Joseph’s College. Liberty assimilation has begun.
“It’s extremely important,” star player Tina Charles said of the team’s Brooklyn prescience. “That’s what I think will make the difference between this ownership and the last ownership we had: showing value in our fans and getting us back in the city where we can be reachable.”
Charles is no stranger to Brooklyn. After all, the Queens native spent countless hours growing up in the borough that houses her father’s Calypso record store Charlie’s Records. The store became the subject of her directorial debut at the Tribeca Film Festival.
She hopes the Liberty become an equally recognized Brooklyn staple.
“I think it’s great for my teammates,” she said. We’ve been up in Westchester the entire time and, me personally, when I think New York City, I don’t think Westchester. I’m glad they have an opportunity to be in the city and get to know the city life.”
Let’s Start 2019 Off Right
The Liberty open with a home-and-home against the tough but rebuilding Indiana Fever. Five of their first six contests are at home, including an 11 AM tip-off against Los Angeles. If they can emerge from that opening stretch with a .500 mark, things could look up for the Liberty as they try to navigate back to championship contenders.
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