Despite flashes of promise, the Liberty are still trying to put it together

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Tina Charles
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Tina Charles /

NEW YORK — The New York Liberty have plenty of weapons. Get Tina Charles going, and the best player on the team can beat you inside. Give Sugar Rodgers some open looks and she can beat you from distance. Bria Hartley has proven capable of running the show, and will get a chance to do it full-time now that Brittany Boyd is out. Epiphanny Prince is still looking to regain her form as she returns from an ACL tear, but if she can, she’s another guard capable of shining.

So yes, the talent is there. The Liberty can beat anyone — they just haven’t proven it yet.

They’ll get their next chance Tuesday night in Phoenix, when they face the Mercury in a 10 p.m. ET tip.

“We have to become a more disciplined basketball team,” head coach Bill Laimbeer said in his postgame press conference last Thursday. “We’re not there yet. As coaches we have to get them more practice time. Drill them more. There’s a myriad of things we have to keep working on.”

Their first game of the season was a lackluster 73-64 win over a depleted Stars team. Prince came off the bench to score 11 points, while the Liberty got an unexpectedly strong performance from Cierra Burdick, perhaps revealing the New York bench to be a little deeper than previously thought.

But at the same time, Kiah Stokes struggled. Laimbeer even called her out in the postgame press conference following the opener for being out of shape. The team lacked energy, and when Laimbeer tried to take Charles out with the game seemingly in hand, the Stars were able to crawl back into the game.

If San Antonio had been at full strength, the final result could well have been different.

For stretches in game two against the Lynx — a 90-71 loss Thursday that was closer than the final score indicated — the Liberty appeared to have righted the ship. They came out with more intensity. Rodgers couldn’t miss in the first half. And while Charles got off to a slow start, Stokes and Kia Vaughn filled the void.

“[My teammates] wanted me to be more of a presence,” Stokes told reporters after bouncing back from that rough first game. “I just tried to give the extra effort. Obviously I can do a lot more still.”

Those successes came with a tradeoff. The team was at times disjointed, not executing the same plays they’d been working on for a month. On one occasion, out of a timeout, the Liberty tried to run a play and two players ended up in the wrong spot. It was moments like that which resulted in a 17-2 third-quarter run that put Minnesota in control.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 24: Tina Charles
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 24: Tina Charles /

“I’m not going to use any excuses for this team,” Charles told reporters after the game. “I think the coaching staff has done a great job preparing us. There’s nothing we didn’t go over. We had enough days to go over Minnesota.”

Boyd’s fourth-quarter injury was just salt in the self-inflicted wounds.

Charles noted Boyd’s energy and ability to do the simple things, following what the coaches and veterans ask — something the Liberty have struggled with so far.

It just falls on us, collectively,” Charles said. “Everyone’s doing their job but us. It just comes down to us doing our job.”

With two tough games coming up on the west coast, the Liberty had better start doing their job. Otherwise a team with realistic playoff expectations could be staring at a 1-3 start.