With WNBA Opening Night one day away, the New York Liberty have completed training camp. On Thursday afternoon, Asia Durr (AD), Natasha Howard, and Lorela Cubaj spoke with the assembled media after practice. Here are some highlights:
Howard and Cubaj on working together and finding chemistry with one another
Howard: “[Cubaj’s] a good roller so that’s one thing that I know that she’s really good at, rolling and finishing in the paint. So me, I can be more of a stretch four and she can be the big dog in the post down low.”
Cubaj: “I’m learning how to play with [Howard] and how to pass her the ball. What she likes to do, what’s her favorite moves, and just having a feeling of each other.”
AD on being back at camp after being away for two years and the training they did with Chris Palmer of Pro Performance Basketball:
“Working with Chris was huge for me because we didn’t just work on pick and roll stuff. We trained a lot, shooting off the ball, moving, and then just trying to make reads because being out for two years, I just have to get my brain back right to doing those things, so it’s been great.”
Cubaj on seeing Han Xu evolve as a basketball player over the years:
“The first time I played in 2015, I was 16 then. We played in the semifinals of the world championships...
She improved a lot. She moves way better on the court. We were really young when we played each other so I can see the changes in her skills, her shooting, and just how she does basketball.”
Cubaj on what she learned from the scrimmage against the Connecticut Sun:
“I learned about the pace and physicality of the game in the WNBA. I didn’t expect that and it was something to get used to, learning how to play with the players more. In the past few days, it was really important for me to understand how the plays work and how to make everybody comfortable, and how to be comfortable on offense and defense with everybody. It was a good test for me to see how comfortable I was on the court and get better from there.”
AD on what they learned on what defines them outside of the game of basketball:
“I tried to find myself because my whole life I relied on playing ball. So when it was taken away from me for two years, I was lost and I didn’t know what to do. It was so many days I was in a dark place, so I just leaned on my family, loved ones, my fiancée, and I literally just took it day by day. I don’t have a specific answer for you because I still feel like there were so many days where I was just lost and I didn’t know what to do. I’m just glad I’m not there now and I’m glad to be back.”
Howard on catching the first pitch at the New York Mets game:
“I was grateful to be out there to catch [Betnijah] Laney’s pitch. It was fun. I had a fun time doing that and also doing it for our team, too.”
Howard on what “When you see us, see New York” means to her:
“It means a lot. Just the history that New York has behind the game of basketball. It was dead on. When you see New York, you see us. You see New York, you see the Brooklyn Nets. You see every team in New York that has so much history behind it, so many great players, so many people that handed over the torch to the next generation. It was a really good thing that we did that video and also showing people that we’re not just basketball players, we can be actors, too! That right there was really fun.”
Howard on transitioning from Russian play back to the WNBA:
“I was happy that I could come home early in March to actually get my body together. Make sure I’m healthy. Make sure I’m ready for this season and giving all I’ve got to my team this season. It felt really good to be back and also prepare my body and prepare myself for this season, and also be around my teammates and help my game grow and help my teammates grow, too.”
Howard on her knee’s health:
“The knee is healthy, I’m healthy.”
AD on Howard’s effectiveness all over the court:
“She can play both sides. She can play D and she can score. She can bring the ball up. She can go coast to coast. She’s really like a guard and a forward. She can play both, and not only that, her team defense is great. If I get beat, I know that she’s gonna have my back and she does that well. It’s gonna help our team tremendously.”
All the players on where they made the biggest improvements in training camp:
Howard: “Me, I think it’s my leadership and being more vocal. I’m really laid back and soft-spoken, but I think me being more vocal a lot, I feel like everybody listens when I actually talk because I really don’t talk like that but I feel like me growing into that role is actually helping our team out.
AD: I think for me, I’m still growing, still trying to learn. Being out for two years is challenging but I have great teammates who help me out and get me through the practice as well. I just take it by day-by-day and lean on my teammates, and they help me through it.”
Cubaj: “For me, kind of the same, I’m growing every single day and I’m trying to be better on offense and defense. Especially on offense, having more confidence and on defense, just doing what is asked of me to do. Just everyday trying to get better.”
Howard and Cubaj on being able to fully engage with the fans after COVID-19 restrictions in 2021 and playing in Westchester in previous years:
Howard: “It’s gonna be fun! Actually having our fans sitting courtside, just having that energy that we couldn’t have last season because we had a limit on how many people could come in the arena. This season, I’m happy we can interact with our fans and our fans can give us that energy, everything that we need this season and keep going.”
Cubaj: “This is my first season here so I’m really excited to see what the crowd will look like, and I can’t wait.
Views you can use
On Friday morning, the team announced the broadcast schedule for this season. YES Network will be broadcasting a record 27 Liberty games this season, starting with the game against the Indiana Fever on May 13. With YES expanding its Liberty coverage, it allows for more fans to keep up with the team on a deeper level and makes the WNBA more accessible to fans not just in the U.S. but across the world.
Meet the team
Brooklyn Nets fans, will be seeing some familiar faces. Our main man, Michael Grady will be doing play-by-play work along with Chris Shearn and Zora Stephenson. Stephenson has earned acclaim for her work covering the Milwaukee Bucks for Bally Sports Wisconsin and covered the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo for NBC Sports.
On the color commentary side, Julianne Viani-Braen will be back to provide the analysis. Viani-Braen has years of experience covering the team and has also worked with ESPN, CBS Sports, and the Big Ten Network. Andraya Carter is joining the coverage this season and you can also catch her providing studio analysis on ESPN’s WNBA coverage. To round us out, Jess Sims will handle sideline reporting duty. Sims is a fitness instructor and educator based out of NYC and works with Peloton as well. From her website:
Jess’ purpose is to be of service to others. By teaching the importance of the connection between the mind and body, equipping caregivers and children with the tools needed to build healthy and active lifestyles, and making it all accessible to all communities and backgrounds, she plans to do just that.
The hope is that team is ready to be great on the court, in the stands, and in the booth. The Liberty opens at 6:00 pm ET Saturday. The game will be telecast on ESPN.
- The Liberty Are Reinventing Themselves - Shauntel Lowe - New York Times