NEW YORK CITY - The players sat quietly, icing knees and/or ankles, sending text messages. The mood was subdued.
On a white grease board in the New York Liberty locker rooms, a message still remained, ‘Effort, rebound, get back.‘
"These are the things you can do," coach Bill Laimbeer said following the Liberty's 83-75 loss to the Connecticut Sun Friday at the Garden. Laimbeer knows the inconsistency and woes plaguing his team are not rooted in running the wrong offense, defense or sets.
It all comes down to effort.
The Liberty trailed 46-26 at halftime following twenty minutes of uninspired basketball. The Liberty mentor read the riot act at intermission. One thing touched upon was a reminder of what he has preached from the first dribble of pre-season camp.
"We need a better effort," Laimbeer said. "I told the team and we constantly emphasize how difficult it is to win in this league. There are outstanding players, each team is talented. The WNBA is difficult to get a win in. You need a 40 minute maximum effort just to compete, not to be a great team but just to get a win. They (Liberty) have heard the words but not embraced it."
One of the changes Laimbeer made at the half was the insertion of Avery Warley-Talbert. That move saw the Liberty energy level rise. Slowly, they chipped away at the Sun lead. The first half saw four Liberty baskets in the paint. The third quarter alone there were nine. Warley-Talbert, a 6-3 center, contributed eight points, for rebounds and most important a shot in the arm, a spark that ignited the Liberty. Stops, transition, a few threes cut a 22 point deficit to a one possession game. Alas, momentum is fleeting. The Sun never lost the lead and a few Alex Bentley baskets at crunch time sealed the verdict.
Laimbeer sees a fine line as a coach, he must address. You are willing to play a less talented player who provides that energy. Still you need the talented player(s) out there. Sometimes it comes down to choosing a player with extra effort and less talent against one providing outstanding ability.
"The really good teams have leadership and chemistry," Laimbeer said. "We do not have that right now."
The coach sees a group with a few talented players, the rest role players fitting in. Certainly not a team that can just show up and get a win. "If we do those things as rebound and hustle back on defense and the opposition is making shots that's one thing. Lack of effort is another thing."
Cappie Pondexter, a 20 point scorer and Tina Charles (a game high 25) helped contribute to that comeback. Pondexter spoke about the Washington game five days earlier when the Liberty virtually dominate en route to an impressive win. She also cited the follow up loss at Tulsa on Tuesday and the just completed Sun setback as proof of what can happen if the team is not collectively on the same page and ready.
"I really believe in this (Liberty) team," she said quietly. "We can get this done."
The record is 3-7 for New York. There is a lot of basketball remaining. The clock though, is ticking for a team in need of a consistent mindset. And effort.