The New York Liberty were 2-20 just a year ago and are now looking like one of the most potent teams in the WNBA, two games in.
The return of star guard Sabrina Ionescu is huge for this team, her impact on the offense as well as her stoic leadership has galvanized the ladies in a way that is visible as compared to last year.
With key additions like Betnijah Laney, who scored 30 points in the Liberty’s season opener and 20 points in their second game and former Seattle Storm guard Sami Whitcomb who has provided a boost in the three point shooting, it has made this team a serious threat to anyone they play this year.
The team will only get better once they get their front court back to full strength with the return of Rebecca Allen, free agent addition Natasha Howard, as well as guard Layshia Clarendon. The front court-duo will provide size, rebounding and defense, which is a much needed boost to an already improved team.
As for the duo of Kylee Shook and Reshanda Gray, they have been solid on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court. Shook is a stretch-five who provides perimeter shooting, which she worked on in the off-season. Gray, who was signed to a hardship contract on May 14th, has proven to be a solid contributor with thin options at the center position right now. Gray has posted at total +9 plus/minus through the first two games of the season.
Head coach Walt Hopkins has preached defense to the team, as well as an offensive philosophy that is as full proof as any.
Before the second game, he said that he has pushed “live at the rim, love the free throw line and like the three.” The Liberty have done just that making it to the line 33 times in two games while shooting 82% as a team. They have a good percentage behind the three point line hitting 43% of their attempts.
Rookie guard/forward Michaela Onyenwere has been a big part of the offensive attack thus far in the season. She poured in 18 points in her debut on 50% shooting from the field and shot 50% from behind the arch. She followed that up with 11 points on Sunday shooting 57% from the field and 50% from the three point line.
Onynewere’s rookie teammate Didi Richards has come in just as strong on the defensive side of the ball. She has three steals with zero personal fouls in two games. Her hustle off the bench energizes the team as she has shown she can be a disruptor in limited minutes.
With all this talk about the rookies, new additions and returning stars, we can’t forget about the bench players that make the team go.
Unsung second-year guard Jazmine Jones has been a much needed calming force on the team. Her ability to play both sides is valuable. Her clutch defense forced a travel in the season opener which gave Ionescu the chance to hit the game winner and she also put up 10 points with a +12 plus/minus.
On Sunday, she didn’t score but her defense stood out. That effort was noticed in the off-season by assistant coach Shelley Patterson who said “She gives you everything” and the Liberty are a better team because of that.
It may only be two games in but the Liberty have gotten off to a good start. Even with the limitations, they have come together and made the best of their situation.
Their team campaign is “Own the Crown” and they are doing just that as the season is just getting started.