Liberty lack ‘toughness’ in preseason loss
Coach Brondello cites team's early ennui against Connecticut
The Connecticut Sun were ready for their WNBA preseason opener.
The New York Liberty? Not so much.
“We didn’t have toughness, we didn’t move the ball. I tell them as it is,” New York head coach Sandy Brondello said after the Liberty suffered a 63-57 loss to the Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Sika Kone scored 10 points off the bench and sparked a 24-12 fourth-quarter burst for New York (0-1), which was outscored 19-3 in the second period and trailed by as many as 19 points before saving some face over the final 10 minutes.
The Liberty were without an assortment of regulars, including their recently acquired trio of superstars, Courtney Vandersloot, Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart.
Also, New York didn’t have sharp-shooter Marine Johannes.
But Brondello, who has had to fend off premature talk of winning the WNBA title with this newly formed superteam, wasn’t making any excuses for what each and every player is responsible for every time they hit the hardwood.
“You can always play hard. We’ve got to do a better job of that,” she insisted. “Connecticut, they still have a really great team here. I don’t think we were anywhere where we needed to be until the fourth quarter.”
Han Xu put up 10 points and newcomer Nyara Sabally, the Liberty’s first pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, added seven points in her first pro game after rehabbing a torn right ACL and missing all of last year for New York, which managed only 15 points over the second and third quarters.
“A lot of them haven’t played in the offseason, so it takes a little time,” Brondello noted.
All-Star guard Sabrina Ionescu shot 2-of-9 from the floor en route to six points and Kayla Thornton added six points and a game-high eight rebounds for the Liberty, who will visit defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Saturday for their preseason finale.
New York, which is currently picked to finish first in the Eastern Conference, according to Vegas oddsmakers, won’t have any excuse for a slow start against the Aces.
“We preach it every day and we have to carry it over from practice to the game,” Brondello said of the Liberty’s attention to detail and possession by possession effort on the floor.
“I think some players were surprised by the physicality. I was like, ‘Really, this is Connecticut.”
New York committed 20 turnovers and was outscored 26-16 in the paint by the more physical Sun in the defeat.
The less-than-stellar performance followed nearly two weeks of hard work in training camp at Downtown’s Barclays Center, where the Liberty will host Indiana on May 21 for their home opener.
Between now and the May 19 season opener in Washington, D.C., Brondello will continue reminding her star-studded unit that championships aren’t won in the preseason.
Nor, of course, are they lost.
“We’ve got a lot to work on so it’s a great first game for us,” she said.
GIVE ME LIBERTY: Former Liberty veteran Rebecca Allen, who went to the Sun in the three-team deal that sent Jones to Brooklyn, was asked about facing the team she spent her first seven pro seasons with in the preseason opener after enduring an injury-plagues 2022 campaign. “It’s an emotional thing for me, coming back and playing this game,” Allen admitted. “I don’t think anyone will ever know what the mental side of that last injury has been for me. To come back and play honestly with confidence is something that I’m super proud of. I also love that I’ve got the support from everyone here.” … Betnijah Laney, an All-Star in 2021 before missing most of last year due to injury, had five points in 22 minutes Wednesday afternoon.
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