It should come as no surprise that the Eastern Conference-leading Liberty are a team whose backbone is its rebounding and defensive ability given who has been roaming the sidelines and running practices.
Third-year coach Bill Laimbeer was one of the most bruising defenders and dominant rebounders throughout his 14 NBA seasons.
While his team is not where it wants to be in terms of offensive efficiency, the Liberty lead the league in rebounds per game and allow the second-fewest points per game at 70.8, which would be the franchise’s best mark since 2005.
“Our identity is our defensive structure and our rebounding,” Laimbeer told amNewYork yesterday at the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh. “I always say defense is about structure and hard work. I’m a very exacting and pay-attention-to-detail type of person as a player and coach. They get that I want no mistakes.”
Laimbeer singled out guard Tanisha Wright as his team’s defensive captain on the floor. Wright signed with the Liberty this offseason after being named to the WNBA All-Defensive Team four times during her previous 10 seasons with the Seattle Storm.
Center Tina Charles, who played in her fourth All-Star Game on Saturday, believes the Liberty have adopted the hard-nosed mentality that the former Detroit Pistons “Bad Boy” brought to the floor during the 1980s and ’90s.
“[Laimbeer’s] philosophy is what he’s always been as a player,” Charles said. “His specialty is being physical, and when it comes to rebounding you have to believe that every shot is a missed shot. That’s what he always tells us.”
In her second season with the Liberty, Charles is averaging a team-leading 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds.
While Charles’ consistent double-double production is to be expected, the Liberty have also taken major strides in working together smoothly on the court.
“The chemistry is dramatically different this year than the past two years,” Laimbeer said. “They all understand not only what their individual roles are but, collectively as a group, what their task at hand is.”
The Liberty (12-5) will look to continue their best start to begin a season since 2001 when they come out of the All-Star break to play the Indiana Fever on the road at 7 p.m. tomorrow.