Second-year Liberty head coach Katie Smith experienced an interesting year this season after a rough head coaching debut last year. Her team dealt with highs and lows unlike last season when everything was low.
On July 5, the Liberty improved to 7-7 after a 3-7 start. Everyone thought the team was on its way to do good things and maybe just maybe make the playoffs this season. With Kia Nurse and Asia Durr leading the way, nothing would stop them. It was easy to get excited when they won two games out West by beating the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury on the road. They figured out how to win and close it out.
Since then, it’s been downhill. The Liberty lost six of their seven games after a 94-79 loss to the 16-6 Eastern Conference leaders Connecticut Sun on Sunday afternoon at Westchester County Center.
Ah highs and lows. Life of a coach to deal with.
This year beats last year, but if the Liberty continue to struggle, and then this season may be like last season where fans may not think the team made that much progress. As much as the Liberty like to harp the little things such as growth and development, ultimately, results matter in the name of wins and losses. The bottom line always exists in any level of sports.
Oh, and as much as the Liberty improved under Smith, there’s no guarantee she will be back next season. She still has to win enough for her to stay. It could be a playoff appearance may be enough for her to stay.
The Liberty have to jumpstart themselves again. It could be they hit the fatigue point. They are coming off an All-Star break, so they have to figure it out soon.
Turnovers turned out to be the Liberty’s problem during the awful stretch. The Liberty committed 22 turnovers in their 87-64 loss to the Dallas Wings last week, and they turn the ball 17 times in Sunday’s game.
They are certainly working on it at practice, but it has to translate to games. That’s been frustrating for Smith and the players.
It’s going to be hard to win games when the Wings score 30 points out of Liberty’s 22 turnovers. It was bizarre when the Sun scored six points in five seconds on several Liberty’s turnovers.
It could be the roster is just not good enough to avoid making turnover mistakes.
If the players don’t figure it out soon, the Liberty will likely miss the playoffs and have another losing season. With the way they are going, that could be the case.
The Liberty have 12 games to figure it out.
Schedule does get any easier for them. The Chicago Sky, Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx are the next three opponents for the Liberty. The Liberty also have one more game coming up against the Sun.
They must get better production for Nurse and Durr as they had when the Liberty had a nice run earlier this season. Their guard play struggled as of late, which is why the Liberty are on a slide. That could be fixable by those two stepping up.
The roster should be healthy enough to win their fair share of games.
They showed potential that they can be a good team by knowing how to close out games and playing defense. Nurse and Durr showed they can be difference makers during the team’s winning streak.
Right now, it’s all about getting their second wind. It’s about trying to pick it up to another gear. It’s about trying to get back to basics and get back to what made them successful.
Teams go through highs and lows in a long season. Teams go through adversity, and right now the Liberty are going through one after having a taste of success. This is harder than earlier this season since the Liberty showed they can be a playoff team. It would be discouraging for the Liberty to finish the season on a downhill since it would not be a way to sell tickets and play more games at Barclays Center heading to next season.
This awful stretch provides a test to see if the Liberty come a long way from what they were. It’s the final test to see how much growth they made from last year. It probably will go a long way from giving Smith an extension as the Liberty coach.
12 games left to go for a team to create its narrative.
Of all people invested in the Liberty this season, Smith for sure will be interested to see what her players got.