Liberty

New-Look Liberty Aiming to Contend

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Revamped Liberty Roster

The New York Liberty had some setbacks in their 2021 campaign, but they were able to exceed expectations. In the first round of the WNBA playoffs they nearly upset a Mercury team that made the WNBA Finals. It was a good season to build on for the Seafoam squad.

Things look a bit different this season. Sandy Brondello has taken the reins as head coach. Players were signed in free agency. The Liberty had a stellar Draft Night, selecting players bursting with potential who don’t need starting minutes right away. The front office got the job done, and the players are confident they can take care of business, too. On the Liberty’s media day Sabrina Ionescu said she thinks there’s a sense of urgency among the team, stating “we don’t want to wait a couple years to get to the playoffs, we know we have the talent to do that now”.

Second Year, Second Gear

Michaela Onyenwere was named The 2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year. Additionally, she made the All-Rookie Team, and so did her fellow first-year Liberty teammate Didi Richard’s. This season both players are looking to take the next step and improve their game, but in different ways.

Richards has mentioned that the coaching staff has asked her to be more vocal and step up as a leader. When asked what being a leader meant to her, Richards said she feels as though it’s about being confident on the court, “that way my teammates believe in me”.

For Onyenwere, she aims to improve her 3-point shot, after last season where she shot 32% from deep. Her new teammate Stefanie Dolson shot 40% from 3-point range last season. When asked if the two had been working together on Onyenwere’s shot, they said they hadn’t, but they should. Stef noted Michaela had been “killing her 3” and Didi Richards pointed at her fellow sophomore and said “she couldn’t miss”.

Let’s Talk About Betnijah Laney

Betnijah Laney established herself as the driving force of the Liberty’s offense last year. Per 36 minutes, she averaged 18.1 points per game. She improved her playmaking and worked seamlessly with Ionescu to shake and skewer opposing defenses.

But can we talk about how she killed it this off-season? She popped up at the NBA All-Star Game, threw out the first pitch at a Mets game with Natasha Howard, and did a great job of representing the Liberty in general. For example, working with the W for Black History Month on this awesome video.

Now, back to her on-court dominance.

Laney has great speed and strength, but what makes her truly deadly is her confidence and quick wit. The quick wit part is displayed below with a sweet back door cut assisted by a sweet Sabrina dish.

Her confidence can be seen in this clip, driving and scoring on tough defender Bridget Carleton.

Just so we’re clear, Carleton is no scrub. She had a 93.9 defensive rating last season, good enough for 36th in the league. Laney doesn’t care who’s defending her, she’s going to get to her spots regardless. Now add Stef to the mix with a healthy Natasha Howard, and you’re cooking with fire.

Dark Horse of the W

Sandy Brondello is sure to elevate this roster with her superior coaching skills. Sabrina is no stranger to winning and is one of the brightest young stars in the league. Becca Allen is going to be back. The real question is, what isn’t there to be excited about when it comes to this Liberty team? They’re sure to be one of the best offenses in the league and their game should be a must-watch for any WNBA fan. Don’t be surprised when they hoist the championship trophy and own the crown at the end of the season.

About Mike Perry

NBA and WNBA writer and podcaster

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