We’re Hungry’: The Liberty Aim High in a Bounce-Back Season

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The Liberty had the worst record in the W.N.B.A. last year. But the return of Sabrina Ionescu and the addition of league veterans could turn things around

Liberty Coach Walt Hopkins and his staff reviewed last season’s film looking for answers beyond the box scores and advanced analytics. Why was their defensive rating so low? Who was getting burned on screens? It was a trying year for a first-year head coach and his team, which ended with the second-worst winning percentage in W.N.B.A. history and a 2-20 record.

The Liberty were young and inexperienced, playing as many as six rookies. Sabrina Ionescu, the 2020 No. 1 overall pick, severelysprained her ankle in her third game and missed the rest of the season. Key contributors such as Rebecca Allen, Marine Johannes and Asia Durr opted out of playing.

Wins weren’t everything for a franchise rebuilding without Tina Charles, the 6-foot-4 center who had led the team in scoring every season since 2014. The Liberty made strides reinventing their style of play. On offense, the focus was on spacing and 3-point shooting. On defense, players were instructed not to over-help on picks. The Liberty shot 41.5 percent of their field goals from 3-point range, the most in W.N.B.A. history, after shooting 28.2 percent of them from there the year before.

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