“It’s going to be tough,’’ Laimbeer said. “We can win some games. That is our goal, to win as many games as possible. We’ll tread water till we get our players back.
“We can’t put our heads down. The league doesn’t stop. It’s relentless. It keeps going. If you put your head down, you have a bigger problem. [We’re] trying to keep the confidence as high as possible these days.”
Tina Charles explains what happened in the second half against the Sparks, how the Liberty can improve and discusses her strong performance in the game.
Confidence, that magic potion that players would pay a small fortune for, is still present in the Liberty locker room after the team fell to 2-3 on the season. But it will be tested.
Epiphanny Prince, who thrived after assuming the starting point guard job when Brittany Boyd was lost for the season with a torn left Achilles tendon, and backup center Kia Vaughn played their last game with the Liberty for at least the next 2-4 weeks.
Both players head to Europe to compete in the FIBA 2017 EuroBasket tournament. Prince will play for Russia. Vaughn will represent the Czech Republic. Prince and Vaughn said they intend to stay in touch with their Liberty teammates and coaches on a daily basis but as Prince said, “You can’t be in two places at once.”
Almost at once, the Liberty has lost three of its top seven players.
“These days with Skype, Facebook, and Instagram, you can stay in touch with anyone from anywhere in the world,’’ Vaughn said. “And we’re all on a group text. It’s a tough time to leave, but any time would have been tough.’’
The Liberty play the second game of a five-game home swing Friday night (7:30 p.m., MSG) at The Garden. They host the Dallas Wings followed by Phoenix, Atlanta, and Seattle. All have winning records as of today.
“We knew this was coming,’’ Laimbeer said. “The league doesn’t stop.”
Lindsay Allen understands that as well as anyone. The former Notre Dame All-American point guard was the Liberty’s top pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft (2nd round; 14th overall). She was the last player the team released.
With Boyd out for the season and Prince in Europe, the Liberty announced on Wednesday that it had resigned Allen. Allen started every game in her four years in South Bend.
She impressed the Liberty with her high IQ and better-than-expected outside shooting. Allen said she got a text from star Tina Charles after she was released. Charles told Allen to stay ready and remain confident.
“To have a player of her stature reach out to me was really humbling,’’ Allen told MSGNetworks.com. “It shows you the kind of person she is, the leader she is.
“It made me want to be a member of this organization, even more, to be surrounded by these great people and athletes. Now my job is to help this team win any way I can.’’
The Liberty need any contribution that Allen can provide. After the L.A. loss, Laimbeer said the team plays in spurts and is not playing with the discipline needed to win on a consistent basis, which can have a negative effect on overall confidence.
He preaches, on a daily basis, that if the Liberty do the little things and outwork the opponent, their talent will take over. In each of the last two losses, the Liberty have been held to 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Adversity hit and the Liberty didn’t hit back.
“Confidence is a funny thing,’’ Laimbeer said. “Each player has to find it within themselves. Sometimes it’s giving more opportunity, giving a player more opportunity and they start to show themselves. Sometimes it’s the opposite. A player gets less opportunity and they go south.
“You try to put in the work. Each player has to put in the work and hopefully good things happen. Collectively, this is where we’re going to be. This isn’t going to be one person saving us or one person making us fail. This is a collective group of coaches and players. We have to all stick together and get through this.”
Which brings us back to Allen. Few rookies come into the league and change a team’s fortunes. Allen clearly has a terrific skill set and potential with a capital ‘P.’ But this will be her first experience going up against the best players in the world on a nightly basis.
Allen has done her part in order to be ready. After being waived, she returned to South Bend where she worked out hard for two weeks. She graduated on Sunday, packed her dorm room belongings into a U-Haul and drove home to Maryland.
Her agent called with the news that the Liberty wanted her back. Next stop, NYC.
“Not often in life do you get a second chance,’’ Allen said. “You never want to see anyone get hurt and I know Brittany will come back strong. Piph and Kia leaving is unusual, but it’s given me this opportunity.
“I’m confident I can play in this league. I feel like the Liberty kept believing in me. Every time I step on the court, I want to show my appreciation with hustle and hard work.’’