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WNBA Team Preview: New York Liberty (#3)

The New York Liberty looks to get past the second round of the playoffs this season.

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Ned Dishman - NBAE

The New York Liberty finished its third consecutive 20-win season in 2017 and ended the regular season on a 10-game win streak. Though New York had regular-season success by earning a first-round bye in the playoffs, this did not translate into success for the postseason. The team was eliminated by the Washington Mystics, at home, in its lone postseason game.

Then-Head Coach Bill Laimbeer left last fall to become head coach and general manager of the Las Vegas Aces. But Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Player Katie Smith now takes the reigns as the Liberty’s new head coach.

Can Smith keep the Liberty on track for both another 20-win regular season and a long playoff run later this summer?

What to expect

Familiar faces

The Liberty cored Tina Charles and re-signed her last winter. They also re-signed center Kia Vaughn and guard Bria Hartley last February. Shavonte Zellous, Kiah Stokes and Amanda Zahui B. remain on the roster as well.

Notable newbies

Kia Nurse was drafted with New York’s first-round draft pick. She won the WBCA Defensive Player of the Year award in the 2017-18 college season and also comes into the WNBA as one of college basketball’s more potent three-point threats.

Shoni Schimmel also returns to New York after a one-year absence from the league. After starting her career with the Atlanta Dream (2014-15) and the Liberty (2016), she took the 2017 season off to grieve the loss of her grandmother and recover from a concussion she suffered late in the 2016 season. According to Doug Feinberg of The Associated Press, the recovery process took seven weeks.

Finally, veteran forward Marissa Coleman signed with New York after getting cut by the Indiana Fever last week. She has been a proficient three-point shooter over the years and should help the team from beyond the arc.

Biggest obstacles

The Liberty have a deep guard rotation with Sugar Rodgers, Epiphanny Prince, Brittany Boyd and Hartley all playing significant minutes in the 2017 season. At the beginning of last season, it appeared Hartley would probably play the least among the four. But, to Hartley’s credit, she took advantage of Prince’s midseason absence for Team Russia in EuroBasket Women 2017 and ended up starting 24 games.

Though Hartley had a bounce-back season in 2017 after a pregnancy the year before, it isn’t certain that she will be a regular starter for New York this season in part because Boyd suffered an injury early in the 2018 season. Things also won’t get any easier with Nurse and Schimmel now in the mix.

Coach Smith will have her hands full figuring that out.

Another obstacle the Liberty face is an unclear ownership situation. Madison Square Garden, Inc., the owner of the Liberty, tried to sell the team last offseason but was unsuccessful finding the right buyer. Though they remain in MSG’s hands, sometimes that can be more of a distraction than a help at this point.

Game zone

Preseason home opener

Liberty vs. Wings

Monday May 7 at 5 p.m, EST

Mohegan Sun ArenaTickets

Season home opener

Liberty vs. Lynx

Friday May 25 at 7:30 p.m. EST

Westchester County Center — Tickets