Liberty Looks to Establish Championship Caliber Identity

This is exactly what coaches hope for after the first week of training camp.

The players are fed up going against each other every day, often twice a day, in practice. They’ve had their fill of being criticized and critiqued – the cut wasn’t crisp enough; they were too slow getting into the set.

It’s time to go live.

Which is exactly what the Liberty will do Tuesday night when they play their first preseason game of the season against the L.A. Sparks in Mohegan Sun Arena. The Liberty then play the Chicago Sky Wednesday night.

In part 1 of Lenn Robbins' exclusive one-on-one interview with Bill Laimbeer, the Liberty head coach gives his thoughts on the strengths of the team, Tina Charles' leadership and this season's expectations.

“They’re ready to play right now,’’ coach Bill Laimbeer said Monday afternoon after the team held its final practice before leaving for Connecticut.

“We have a long way to go still. We have a lot of young people. We have a lot of new people. It will be a little frustrating. Some of the new people won’t have the experience in the first couple of games and it will frustrate somebody else.

“Overall the effort is what were looking for. To see if we can take the effort we put forth in training camp and move it into a game.’’

The Liberty is regarded as one of the top teams in the WNBA. They went 44-24 the last two seasons and this year’s team is expected to be faster and deeper.

Laimbeer’s desire is to have this team get out and run more. It will be one of the biggest differences from recent teams. Which means point guard will be especially paramount.

Laimbeer said he will give rookie Lindsay Allen out of Notre Dame a chance to play with the first team. Allen was the team’s top draft pick, the 2nd player taken in the second round and 14th overall.

[Robbins: Lindsay Allen Looking to Make a Splash with Liberty]

Point guard Bria Hartley, who the team acquired along with center Kia Vaughn in a trade with Washington, also will get a chance to show her lead guard skills.

“I want to see us push the ball.,’’ Laimbeer said. “I don’t really care if we win. I’ve lost eight [preseason games] in a row so I don’t give a damn.’’

Laimbeer also has been intrigued by rookie Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, who played two years overseas after playing college ball at Simon Fraser College in Canada.

He wants to see the 6-foot-2 Raincock-Ekunwe play alongside Tina Charles. Charles also will see some time at the center position. She was strictly at power forward last season.

As Training Camp begins, Tina Charles gives her thoughts on what the team hopes to accomplish in preparation for the season.

“We’re really looking forward to being up on another team,’’ Charles said. “But for me, I just want to make sure that they know we’re not going to get every play correctly, we’re not going to be in the right spot defensively.

“It’s just more so for this team, for this year, to develop our identity. Nobody outworks us. We give the best effort.

All of this preseason tinkering is done with one objective.

“Our whole mindset is we want to win the championship now and we built a team that should be very competitive,’’ Laimbeer said. “Now a lot can happen. We could have injuries, bad bounces, bad calls, somebody’s sick.

“We’re going to put forth our best effort from start to finish, every play, every game. That’s the hallmark of this team this year. We have to go to play the games to prove it.’’