NEW YORK – Bill Laimbeer and the New York Liberty have had a busy offseason.
After a dismal first season in charge of the team which saw New York miss the playoffs for only the third time in the past decade, Laimbeer made a blockbuster deal to acquire center Tina Charles.
"When I came to the Liberty, I spent the whole year understanding what they were about," said Laimbeer, who took over as New York's head coach and general manager in October 2012. "And just trying to get a handle on what was necessary for this franchise to move forward to the level I'm charged with.
"It was clear we needed another marquee player. Stars win in this league, (just like) stars win in the NBA."
So Laimbeer put together a package to acquire Charles, bringing the former MVP home to New York.
"The opportunity to be in New York is a dream come true," said Charles. "My mom always took me to the Liberty games, I'd see Rebecca Lobo, Becky Hammon, (Teresa) Weatherspoon before games. This is a big dream to play at the Garden."
Charles will get her first chance to play at MSG on Saturday when the Liberty host the Chicago Sky. The team opens its season the night before at Connecticut — Charles' former team.
Here are five things to know about the Liberty:
DOMINANT POST: New York traded three first round picks to acquire Charles from Connecticut, which gives Laimbeer one of the top post players in the league. Charles averaged 18.0 points and 10.1 rebounds last season. The 25-year-old Queens native makes the Liberty tougher on the interior. "We've never had a dominant post player before so to have her around and watch her work and see her skill set, it's pretty amazing," guard Cappie Pondexter said.
BOUNCING BACK: Pondexter didn't want to dwell on last season's failure and is forward to the upcoming season. New York finished the season 11-23 — matching the fewest victories in franchise history. Pondexeter, who doesn't "want to talk about anything that happened last year," averaged a career-low 16.9 points shooting 36 percent from the field.
HEALTHY CARSON: The Liberty will have a healthy Essence Carson this season after the veteran guard tore her left ACL after just four games last year. Carson was averaging a career-best 14.3 points and 5.5 rebounds before the injury.
TEAM CHEMISTRY: New York hasn't had much of a chance to play with its full roster yet this season. Pondexter and Charles sat out the exhibition games while resting after long seasons overseas in the winter.
COMING HOME: New York has been away from its home the past three seasons as the Garden was undergoing a $1 billion renovation. Laimbeer saw the team's playing its home games in Newark the last three years as a big problem. "Being in Newark was a detriment to the franchise in many ways — to the fan base, the players, and anyone who wanted to come here," Laimbeer said. Added Pondexter, "The Garden is the Garden, everyone wants to play on that stage."
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