WASHINGTON, D.C., May 13 – The New York Liberty tips off its 20th WNBA season at the Washington Mystics on Saturday, May 14, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The game will be broadcast on MSG Network (tape delay) and ESPN3.
• New York struck a deal with Dallas for 2015 second overall pick Amanda Zahui B. and a 2017 second round pick for the Liberty’s 2017 first round pick on May 11. Zahui B. averaged 3.4 ppg and 2.4 rpg during her rookie season. Zahui B. reported to New York on May 12 and had two full days of practice with her new team before embarking on the first road trip of the season.
• New York acquired All-Star guard Shoni Schimmel from the Atlanta Dream on May 2 in exchange for the Liberty’s 2017 second round draft pick. Schimmel is a two-time All-Star with career-averages of 8.0 ppg and 1.5 3-pointers per game. Schimmel arrived after the first preseason game but saw 11 minutes of action against Minnesota, scoring five points with a 3-pointer.
• The Liberty lost the 2015 season series to the Mystics 3-1, but defeated Washington, 2-1, in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, including an 86-68 win in New York’s last trip to the Verizon Center. New York is 42-29 all-time against Washington, but just 4-6 in the last 10 games against their conference foe.
• A pair of Liberty players returning from injury are expected to see their first action of the season on Saturday night. Both Shavonte Zellous and Kiah Stokes sat out both preseason games. Zellous, one of the key acquisitions during the offseason, singed with the Liberty as an unrestricted free agent back in February. She starts the season needing just nine points to reach 2,000 for her career.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Tina Charles is coming off an impressive 2015 season and a monster playoff performance. She ranked fourth in the league in scoring last season (17.1 ppg) and second in rebounding (8.5 ppg), leading to First Team All-WNBA honors and a third-place finish in the league’s MVP voting. Last year was the first that Charles really slid over to the four, as with Carolyn Swords and Kiah Stokes anchoring the interior, Charles was free to operate more freely on the offensive end, and avoid banging bodies on defense. It will be a key for New York to see her continue to emerge as a scoring threat from nearly any spot on the court to really open things up.
Saturday night’s matchup features the WNBA’s top two defensive teams from a season ago. The Liberty led the league in points allowed (71.1) and defensive field goal percentage (.393), but the Mystics were not far behind, giving up just 71.2 ppg while allowing opponents to shoot just .405 from the field.
Washington found a lot of success shooting from the perimeter last season against New York, while in the regular season, the Liberty never found a rhythm from the outside. New York was not amongst the league leaders in 3-point shooting in 2015, but against the Mystics saw that percentage dip to .163 (7-for-43), while Washington averaged 7.8 3-pointers per game in the season series.