Liberty a Work in Progress

No one has a better handle on a team than the head coach.

So while the social media world has been fretting over the New York Liberty’s recent losing streak, let’s consider coach Bill Laimbeer’s words from media day on May 1.

Laimbeer said the Liberty would be a work in progress until the All-Star break, which is less than three weeks away.

Laimbeer gave this assessment before losing starting point guard Brittany Boyd for the season to a torn Achilles tendon in the second game.

He did know he’d be without guard Epiphanny Prince and center Kia Vaughn for most of June while both players participated in the 2017 FIBA EuroBasket tournament. But no one could predict what the ripple effects of losing and regaining two of the top seven players would be. And losing Boyd made the development of this team even more daunting.

[Robbins: Boyd Stays Active With Libs Despite Season-Ending Injury]

No team in the WNBA – certainly none with expectations as high as New York’s – has had to deal with more adversity than the Liberty.

“We feel there’s an opportunity for a lot improvement,’’ said Laimbeer. “We have some young players that we’re getting up to speed and we’ve had to adjust to getting Piph and Kia back.

“We haven’t shot the ball very well, offensively. Defensively, we’ve been pretty good. I said we’d be a work in progress until the All-Star break and that’s what we are.’’

The Liberty (7-7) plays at the Seattle Storm (7-8) Thursday night (10 p.m.; MSG Network) in the third game of a brutal four-game road trip. By the time the Liberty return home, they will have been on the road for 12 days, their longest road swing since 2013.

New York lost the first two games on the trip and has lost three straight overall. But sometimes wins and losses don’t tell the entire story.

Prince and Vaughn missed six games while in Europe. The Liberty remarkably won five-of-six as young players such as Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe and Lindsay Allen stepped up. Shavonte Zellous and Kiah Stokes played some of the best ball of their careers. And Sugar Rodgers was on a tear.

But that only set the stage for the hard part – acclimating Prince and Vaughn back into the rotation. And while in the midst of that transition, Rodgers went down with a back injury that cost her one game.

“Kia Vaughn and Piph are such a big part of this team,’’ said guard Shavonte Zellous. “We built some really good chemistry while they were away which says a lot about our depth and the kind of people we have on this team.

“When they returned, we needed to get them back in the flow and get that chemistry back. The good thing is, this is a team that really likes one another. There’s no finger pointing. We know we’re getting better every day and the adversity we’re going through now is only going to make us a better team.’’

[Robbins: Liberty Show Up For Equality at NYC Pride Parade]

Laimbeer has tinkered with the lineup, moving Vaughn into the starting center position in place of Stokes. Raincock-Ekunwe got a couple of starts at small forward.

This is all part of a plan to learn how to maximize the Liberty’s depth. That depth was significantly tested down the stretch last season. The Liberty dressed just seven players for their regular-season finale.

New York was 21-10 before dropping its last five, including the one-game playoff loss to Phoenix. Until that point, the Liberty had one three-game losing streak early in the season.

Tina [Charles] and I were just talking about that,’’ said Zellous. “We peaked early last year. I believe that adversity builds character. Last season we didn’t really hit adversity until late in the season.

“Right now we have a chance to figure it out. We know we can overcome this. We have a group that really likes one another. We’re so close.

“Our defense has been good, could be a little better, but that’s always the case. Once we get that chemistry back on offense, we’re going to be ready for that one-game playoff or whatever we face in the playoffs. I have no doubt we’ll be ready to take on Minnesota, Los Angeles, any of the top teams.’’