Laimbeer Looks To Fine Tune Libs Before Start of Season

After the Liberty split its first two preseason games, coach Bill Laimbeer used the phrase “mixed bag” to describe what he took away from an 81-65 win over the LA Sparks and an 86-75 loss to the Chicago Sky.

The Liberty plays its third and final preseason game Sunday against the Connecticut Sun.

Laimbeer, his staff, and the Liberty management must decide how to get to the WNBA roster limit of 12 before the season opener next Saturday against the San Antonio Stars at The Garden (3 p.m. MSG Network).

Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer talks about having a lot of young players in training camp and what the coaching staff hopes to instill in the team.

“There was some good and there was some not so good,’’ Laimbeer said. “Some players that performed well on Tuesday didn’t perform so well on Wednesday. And some players that didn’t perform so well on Tuesday performed well on Wednesday.

“We still have a few players overseas so we had a lot of young players, some inexperienced players on the court and that’s going to happen. We’ll go back to work and see how it plays out.’’

That should be interesting, to say the least.

There are about 14 players that realistically have a shot at grabbing one of those 12 coveted spots. But there’s another factor in addition to skill and fit that the brain trust must consider when choosing the roster.

Because of the EuroBasket Women 2017 tournament to be held in June in the Czech Republic, star guard Epiphanny Prince and center Kia Vaughn will miss multiple games each in order to fulfill European national team commitments.

Liberty Prince Stock

Prince will play for Russia. She is looking for a bounce-back season after tearing her right ACL while playing for her Russian pro team Dynamo Kursk in 2015. Prince returned from Russia this week and will begin practice this week.

Vaughn, who the Liberty acquired in a trade with the Washington Mystics along with Bria Hartley, dominated overseas this winter. She opened the preseason by scoring 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field, 4-of-5 from the line, and grabbed six rebounds in 26 minutes against the Sparks.

Center Amanda Zahui B, who also played in Russia, went through her first practice with the Liberty on Friday. Shavonte Zellous and Kiah Stokes remain in Europe, where their teams have advanced in the playoffs. Both are expected back sometime next week.

The bad news is that not having everyone in camp makes the evaluation process more difficult. The good news is that other players have a chance to show. Rookies Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe and Lindsay Allen have impressed.

“We still don’t know what we can be,’’ Laimbeer said. “We still have a long way to go before we open. A lot can happen, injuries, you never know if someone is going to come to us with a trade.

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

“We like what we have on paper. Now we have to keep working and see it in the games.’’

Laimbeer said the team has installed only about 20 percent of its offense and that will be one of the focuses moving forward. Having Prince and Zahui B in practice will help.

He was not pleased with the team’s rebounding effort in the loss to Chicago. The Sky outrebounded New York, 37-31, with a significant number of those rebounds coming on long balls.

Translation – With Tina Charles, Stokes, Vaughn and Zahui B., New York has enough big bodies to board. But for a team that is looking to run more, the guards are doing to have to do their share.

Bottom line, the next five days will go a long way to rounding out the team New York puts on the court this season. If the pieces fall into place, the franchise’s goal of hoisting a banner could come to fruition.