The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, January 8, 2020
Live from Brooklyn for the Walt Hopkins unveiling — Interview with Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb — Must-click women's basketball links
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“We’re going to take a lot more threes,” the newest head coach of the New York Liberty, Walt Hopkins, declared on Wednesday at his introductory press conference.
It was a notable thing to say, and one that speaks well of the approach Hopkins will bring. Analytics were treated as a given throughout. The team finished eighth in three-point attempts last year, despite employing sharpshooters like Marine Johannès, Rebecca Allen, and numerous others comfortable shooting the ball out beyond the arc.
The Liberty seem to understand that they need to move forward in a hurry. What was clear on Wednesday was how set up they are to do so.
The mood at Barclays Center was akin to someone who’d just beaten a medical death sentence. And that’s not too strong a diagnosis for what happened to the New York Liberty. Once Jim Dolan decided he didn’t want them anymore, the franchise was left to play in a hugely substandard arena many miles from its fanbase, with a new home in New York in doubt.
If Joe Tsai hadn’t come along and put them in Barclays, where would they have gone that was remotely sustainable, let alone a place to grow? There simply isn’t an answer, and several folks I spoke to on Wednesday essentially shrugged when asked if there was a happy ending anywhere else for the New York Liberty.
But that’s what happened. General manager Jonathan Kolb pointed out that again and again, new ownership has been investing over scrimping, the Barclays decision playing out in ways large and small.
The Liberty are primed to take off this season. But it’s hard to separate that trajectory from the circumstances surrounding it. Would Tina Charles (who, let the record show, Kolb declined to declare untouchable or 100% coming back at the presser) want to stick around and play in Westchester or some other New York-adjacent outpost? Would draft picks start to demand trades or refuse to sign, as happened with Sky Blue FC of the NWSL?
Luckily, no one had to see what further out years would have looked like in post-Dolan exile. The draft picks — Kia Nurse, Asia Durr, Han Xu — are on rookie-scale contracts. The next pick will be, too, whichever Oregon point guard the Liberty decide to pick.
The ability to show Charles where and how to get better shots is something her career needs, and an area Hopkins has excelled with other veterans in Minnesota. So it is worth remembering that Charles’ slump wasn’t simply a question of missing shots, but where she took them, as her shot chart makes clear:
This season, she’ll be shooting them in a world-class arena. No longer are there questions about viability. No more tiny, cramped locker rooms, and the indisputable feeling that the franchise’s days were numbered.
Whatever comes next, that made Wednesday feel like a win for New York.
This week in women’s basketball
The Philadelphia Inquirer has given Damichael Cole a weekly City Six women’s basketball column!
Erica McCall gets real on performance anxiety.
Geoff Maggliocchetti named an all-decade New York Liberty team.
Terrific Mechelle Voepel look at ACL injuries in women’s basketball.
Cassandra Negley forecasts who will rule the 2020s in college basketball.
Calvin Wetzel runs the numbers on upsets of top-ranked teams.
Sarah Spain talked to Sheryl Swoopes.
Here’s my latest WNBA Draft big board.
Kelsey Trainor on why Dawn Staley wasn’t allowed to take a picture.
You have Pac-12 questions. Michelle Smith has answers.
A Final Four in Phoenix is fine by me, just make sure Tito Munoz and the Symphony are also in town!
Madeline Kenney details Stefanie Dolson’s Chinese offseason.
Bria Felicien looks at Kelly Loeffler’s political positions, given her position with the Atlanta Dream.
Certified bracketologist Russ Steinberg gives us the lay of the land.
Nebraska might be on the cusp of a breakthrough.
Enjoy this Bobi Buckets origin story.
Three days of SMU prep for UConn. (It didn’t work.)
Alexa Philippou makes this point: if you didn’t go to UConn, on January 27, you’re going to feel left out. (We’ll have exclusive The IX content from that visit as well.)
Tweet of the week
Five at The IX: New York Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb
(Jonathan spoke to reporters in a scrum setting after his press conference Wednesday. Click on the picture to listen!)