Dishin & Swishin 9/10/15 Podcast: Are the New York Liberty the best team in the WNBA?
— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) September 7, 2015
It is a pleasure to welcome back to Dishin & Swishin Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, former Stanford guard, color commentator on the MSG network for New York Liberty games, and apparently quite the good luck charm. As sideline reporter for the Golden State Warriors, Gold-Onwude was front and center for that team’s NBA title run. Now this summer, she covers the first-place New York Liberty and their season.
The Liberty are the Eastern Conference champions and owners of home court advantage throughout the playoffs with a 23-9 overall won-loss record to date. If you predicted this at the beginning of the season, congratulations, and please tell what lottery numbers to play this week, because you were definitely in the minority.
Heck, a lot of people thought the Liberty could be lottery bound, behind Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Indiana after last season’s 15-19 record, playing away from Madison Square Garden, and then off-season chaos. First coach Bill Laimbeer was not brought back, then he was brought back. Isiah Thomas was brought in as team President and part-owner, then he was no longer going to be part-owner.
With a new lease on life, Laimbeer and de facto General Manager Kristin Bernert made bold moves, re-shaping a franchise that had become stagnant; one that relied on All-Star Tina Charles too much. Veteran players like Tanisha Wright, Carolyn Swords, and Candice Wiggins were added via free agency. Draft day maneuvers brought the point-guard-of-the-future in Brittany Boyd and defensive stalwart center Kiah Stokes. The master stroke, though, was the trade that sent an unhappy and under-performing Cappie Pondexter to division rival Chicago, bringing Charles’ long-time friend and local legend Epiphanny Prince home to New York.
The roster depth created by adding this much talent enables returning players like Sugar Rodgers, Swin Cash and Essence Carson to fill spots where they are comfortable; playing 17-19 minutes per game, taking advantage of their individual skill sets.
Charles and Prince are the only members of the Liberty to average around 30 minutes per game. They are the constants, and they are the stars, acknowledged and respected by their teammates.
Charles, aided by the defense of Stokes and the physicality of Swords playing beside her, is a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate. She averages over 17 points per game and around nine rebounds per game. Her ability to float between high and low post enables the Liberty guards and wings to find her in multiple places for her to score. The player of the month for August in the WNBA, Prince this season has career-highs in points per game (15.8) and field goal percentage (.482).
Despite having those two stars, this is a team that the sum is greater than the parts. Defensively, they are holding opponents to a league low 70 points per game, and a shooting percentage of only 39 percent. They lead the league in rebounding (36.9 per game). Offensively, the tenacity continues, as they pull down ten offensive rebounds per game (third in the league), and dish 17 assists per game (fourth in the league).
The conference battles have been phenomenal this year, but the Liberty hold a 13-7 in conference record (Chicago is 14-7 with one more game played). At home, back in the “World’s Greatest Arena,” Madison Square Garden, the Liberty have a gaudy 12-4 record; however one was to Chicago, last week, in what could be a preview of the conference finals.
As the regular season comes to a close, the Liberty prepare for their first run in the playoffs in a few years; can they pull off what the franchise previously could not, win it all.
Enjoy the podcast!