New York City, NY - The outcome was not decided and there was the admitted slight feeling of nervousness present. Three minutes to go, the New York Liberty held a 77-69 lead over the Atlanta Dream and rookie Brittany Boyd was back on the floor to close the game out.
The Liberty were in command for the duration, and she played no small part in their dictating play the first 37 minutes. Regardless, this was crunch time, and you receive no accolades for leading virtually all the way. Only the score at 0:00 of the fourth quarter mattered.
To those nearly 9,000 in attendance, it would have been unfathomable that she would be rattled. Boyd on this opening night, her WNBA rookie debut, was on the grand stage cool, calm and effective.
"I did feel a bit nervous getting the call (with) three minutes to go," Boyd confessed in the Liberty locker room following the 82-73 victory over Atlanta. "At that point, you are in a situation with the game on the line. Once I got out there, I felt ready. I have a great group of teammates."
That latter point regarding the team concept, was emphasized by Bill Laimbeer. The Liberty coach made several post-game references to the favorable team chemistry. "This is a group that gets along with each other, likes each other and just has great chemistry," Laimbeer praised.
"This is a group that allows you to look forward to (as a coach) and enjoy going to practice."
A mix of veterans with exciting newcomers have also made practice enjoyable -- newcomers such as Boyd.
"She (Boyd) has quickness and has been better than we expected," Laimbeer said of the University of California product. "She is not out of control as she was the first day with us. The shot has been a work In progress, but she has simply done everything we have asked her to do."
On this night, the 5-9 guard scored 14 points in a 19-minute outing. She did commit four turnovers, but that was offset by hitting all six of her free throw attempts.
"I am having fun out there," Boyd said with a wide smile "I am looking to make plays and do whatever the team needs me to do." She did agree with Laimbeer's assessment saying, "I have to slow down a bit at times and learn to take better care of the ball."
Boyd came from the West coast with impressive credentials. A second team AP All-American, Boyd was one of just three players to average at least 14 points (14.5), 6 rebounds (6.8), 5 assists (5.8) last season.
An outstanding college player with midseason listing on the Wade, Naismith, Wooden, Liebermann and Dawn Staley awards, Boyd realized there would be an adjustment moving up to the ‘W'. The opposition is not looking for your autograph.
"I found the speed of the pro game took some getting used to," she said. "The size of the players in the WNBA is significant. In college you could get in the lane and have a better chance to finish. Here you get in the lane you have bigger players to contend so you have to adjust."
Boyd's four years at Berkeley saw Cal enjoy resounding success. Under the guidance of Coach Lindsey Gottlieb, Cal advanced to three NCAA second round games and the Final Four ('13).
The high level of Cal's Pacific 12 conference as well as their tournament success all contributed to Boyd's growth as a player.
Gottlieb, a Knick fan during her days in the Big Apple, has New York roots. A visit to family and friends plus the chance to see her former star make her WNBA debut was too good to pass up. She spoke with excitement and proud over Boyd's performance.
"I was thrilled to see her (Boyd) compete," Gottlieb said. "In our conference (Pacific 12) we were uptempo, and our team enjoyed that pace. That really helped get her (Boyd) ready for this."
Boyd benefited by playing for a high-level program. In turn she also was a reason the program enjoyed outstanding success during her four years. "She (Boyd) ran the show for us for four years," Gottlieb said.
"She got exposure against different styles and saw practically every defense you will see up against her.
"The pro level is a whole different thing with the talent but having that experience she had can only help."
Gottlieb also praised another part of Boyd's game that is oft overlooked, defense. She was a three-year All-Pac 12 Defensive team member her final three seasons.
She uses that quickness Laimbeer referenced to get in the passing lanes and generally disrupt her opponent. Those qualities were evidenced by her four steals against the Dream.
What Boyd said, "I have to stay ready," about those last three minutes could also be carried over to the season. Given what we saw opening night, as well as the past few years, one is assured she will be.