The New York Liberty are coming off a disappointing 2013 season, finishing 12 games under .500 and losing nine of their final 10 games. But there is reason for renewed optimism this season. Coach Bill Laimbeer’s club traded for Queens native and standout center Tina Charles on draft day. The Liberty is also returning to Madison Square Garden after a three-season absence during the MSG renovation. The team played in Newark during the renovation and Laimbeer says they are itching to get back to Manhattan.
We talked to Laimbeer about the upcoming season. Here is the Q & A with the former Bad Boy turned WNBA coach:
Q: What’s your outlook for the team this season?
A: I think in acquiring Tina Charles, that made our season a very optimistic one. Acquiring a player of her magnitude -- 18 points, 10 rebounds per game consistently -- cannot be overlooked. I think with Cappie (Pondexter) and Essence (Carson) coming back from her knee injury, I think we have a very sound nucleus to build upon and to mold around. I think the players are -- I know the players are genuinely excited to get back in the Garden because Newark kind of wore everybody down.”
Q: Do you think Tina helps give you a nucleus that will allow you to compete with elite teams?
A: Yes, I do. I think with this core, it’s a great place that it’s built for. Many times nothing happens overnight. You have to build the team and find the complementary pieces. And you may even find another star to play with them. But you can’t (skip) Step 1. Step 1 is to get competitive. I think that’s what we’ve accomplished. With Tina, we’ve become a competitive basketball team in the Eastern Conference. How competitive remains to be seen. We have to actually play the games. Now we have to continue to look (at) pieces to add. Not only this year but the next couple of years. When we talked to Tina about coming to New York, we painted a picture of, ‘Here’s the process that we’re going to do to get to be champions.’ And she understood that this is not an overnight success story. This is (team) building. (We have) a time frame of a short window but obviously we’re going to give it our best shot every day we go out there.”
Q: What do you remember about MSG from your playing days?
A: From my playing days, it’s a very knowledgeable crowd, a passionate basketball crowd. If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, they’re going to get on you. Because that’s what they pay for. They pay to see a quality game, a quality product. And there’s no exception on the ladies’ side either. They’re coming to watch a competitive basketball game played the right way. If you don’t play it the right way, they’re going to let you know about it.
Q: Were you booed at the Garden?
A: Oh yeah, I was a villain, there was no question about it. Any arena I played in, there were 15,000 to 17,000 people chanting at you, calling you names. But that comes with the territory, it means I was doing something right. It means we were winning and I was an integral part of us winning.”
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