Greetings from Madison Square Garden, where the Sun and New York Liberty square off for the first time this season. Tip-off is about 15 minutes away. I'm interested to see New York. Its starting lineup today (Erin Thorn, Loree Moore, Shameka Christon, Cathrine Kraayeveld and Janel McCarville) was the same one it ran out during its postseason run last year, and coach Pat Coyle has better depth now by adding rookies Essence Carson and Erlana Larkins to a group that includes former Huskies Ashley Battle and Loree Moore, Tiffany Jackson and eventually, Jessica Davenport (currently injured). Today is the Liberty's season and hope opener.
Here's a transcript from an interview with Coyle prior to the season where she touches upon several things for the upcoming season.
(On expectations) Right now, we’re just looking to really start blending, getting everybody back, get some chemistry, and get them acquainted again. This is the first year since I’ve taken over that we don’t have major turnover. This is the first year going into camp where we have three new players as opposed to eight. It is in a sense that there’s always going to be a lot of teaching, but because these players have been here for at least a year and several years, they know how things are done. They know how we play, how we guard. That process isn’t as long.
(On building from last year) I hope we keep the momentum going. It was sa great rush last year, it was a great finish for us. In the Detroit series, a basket here or there or a charge here or there, it’s a different story. But we understand that that wasn’t good enough last year. To lose the way we did, the rush we made to get into the playoffs was great, but our players were highly upset that we didn’t go further because we felt like we could of — we should of — so they feel like business isn’t quite done yet.
We’re still young. Barb Farris went to Phoenix so we’re probably the youngest team in the league now. But to me, these players had a chance to get playoff experience under their belt. I think that experience will help. I want us to play well, play together and whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.
(On rookies) We did our homework on both of them (Carson and Larkins). We think they’re going to fit in nicely for this group, the personality, the character, all that stuff. As far as playing, I think Essence is a big, athletic guard. She can guard, she rebounds, and with Larkins, she’s strong in the paint, she can finish around the basket. But I think with the two of them, I’m not sure what we’re going to get from them yet. How quickly they adjust to this level will be beneficial for us.
The thing here, we don’t lean on one person, we don’t lean on just two. We’re all about everyone carrying the load. Not one person is going to carry the load here and I like it that way. Last year we had three or four players in double figures and easily could have had six. Our strength is going to be in our numbers.
(On Carson) Let me to you what: Essence Carson is going to be fine on the offensive end. Are there things that she needs to work on? Absolutely. But does she have the ability? Absolutely. She’s going to be fine at this level. Trust me.
(Is there more pressure this year?) I thought we were a good team last year. Once through the schedule, you can say we snuck up on people, but once we got to playing people two, three, four times, I don’t think that was the case. I don’t know how many people we snuck up on after the initial start. To me, that’s part of this team’s initial growth and the maturity and all that. Instead of doing the hunting, people will be hunting us, which is fine. That’s just the next part of the growing process for all of us.
(On concerns) We need to rebound better and we need to take care of the ball. Those are two things we really need to address and we have been addressing.
(On McCarville) She had a terrific year last year, but she’s gotten better and the people around her have gotten better. So I expect us to grow and be even better as a team. (Arrived Thursday)
(On conference) If you really look at the history of the East, New York was so dominant for how many years and we went through a transition period, where as those players got older and we had to get younger, that was a process that we started two years ago. I think Connecticut is starting to go through it right now. They’re starting to flip their roster, and that’s probably going to happen to Detroit in the next year or two. They’ve had great success with the people that they’ve had, but at some point, these players get older and that’s what happens.
But from top to bottom, everyone in this league has gotten better. There are no cupcakes, no one’s going undefeated, I don’t think. I could be wrong with L.A. But this league is really, really competitive.
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As for the Sun, it appears they'll go with the same starting lineup as Saturday (Lindsay Whalen, Amber Holt, Kerri Gardin, Asjha Jones and Tamika Whitmore). Shutting down McCarville is key, as she touched the Sun for 18 and 14 points in each of the teams' final two match-ups last year.
Officials for today: June Corteau, Tony Dawkins and Marat Kogut.
Also, here are some other tidbits from Saturday's season openers: KT Douglas was stellar for Indiana, Alexis Hornbuckle stole the show for Detroit and, of course, Candace Parker showed everyone she may not be the league's next great superstar but its current great superstar.