If every player in the WNBA made the maximum -- $91,000, and I read that Lauren Jackson is the only one to fetch that much -- the league payroll would be $15.3 million, while dung-for-brains Knickerbocker Stephon Marbury is due to receive $18.3 million next year.
There are just three women in head coaching positions in the WNBA, but at least New York gets that one right, having enabled assistant Pat Coyle to take over when Richie Adubato left for Washington.
The Liberty enters the 2006 season after losing four of its starters, two to free agency and two more, it appears, to retirement. The reason I was digging into WNBA payroll information was to find their rules regarding salary cap and luxury taxes. If James Dolan, who owns the Liberty and Knicks, is willing to shell out so much in luxury tax for the last-place Knicks, why wouldn't he try to keep the Liberty free agents? Two-time All-Star swingwoman Vickie Johnson is in San Antonio, and Crystal Robinson, the Liberty's all-time leader in three-point percentage, is in Washington.
The Liberty's only returning starter is guard Becky Hammon, the team leader in scoring, assists, steals, and minutes. The 5-foot-6 Hammon was third on the Liberty in defensive rebounds. Shameka Christon, a spot starter in 2005, will probably get the regular starting role at two guard; she was second on the team in steals last year.
#12 draft pick Sherrill Baker might grow into a great defensive guard (Kiesha Brown is another defensive specialist), and in the Liberty's final preseason game, she scored 12 points in 13 minutes. Fourth-year shooter Erin Thorn seems to be designated as the team's three-point specialist for the ends of quarters.
Small forward Ashley Battle played just eight minutes in her rookie year with Seattle, but she's won the starting job in New York, scoring and rebounding like the team leaders, with a defensive reputation as the 2003 conference defender of the year at Connecticut. Cathrine Kraayeveld will emerge as one of the league's top rebounders, and she shoots free throws incredibly well for a power player, but I think she's 0 for her last 11 field goal tries.
Barbara Farris was a backup forward in Detroit for six years, but she is pressed into New York's starting center job. Maybe she can rebound some; in 2001, when she averaged 18 minutes, she pulled 3.5 boards. 6-foot-5 Kelly Schumacher blocked a bushel of shots in limited minutes for Indiana; she's ahead of rookie Christelle N'Garsanet for the backup job.
NWBL connections: While Colorado's inside star Ruth Riley was out with a broken thumb, Becky Hammon put the Chill on her 5-foot-6 back, leading the league in scoring average by a 6.7-point margin and assists average by a margin of 2.7. She was third in the league in steals, fifth in free throw percentage, and I would wager she led the NWBL in efficiency during the last two minutes. She was named most valuable player in the league.
Kraayeveld was first in the league in rebounding, second in scoring and free throw percentage, and earned the NWBL's rookie of the year award.
Kraayeveld intrigues me. When her college coach at Oregon resigned in the midst of a mutiny by the players, Kraayeveld wouldn't comment to the press. She cares enough about details like her name being misspelled on a trophy. And like I wrote before, she hustles for long rebounds as much as she positions herself for short ones.
Outlook: If the Liberty were my team, I'd try some three-guard lineups: Hammon at 5-6, Baker at 5-8, and Brown at 5-10, institute some system of traps, and hope Shumacher changed enough shots if the presses broke. A conventional approach with Farris/Schumacher, Kraayeveld, Battle, Christon and Hammon would reach to make .500.
Of course, I am hoping for more, since my favorite player leads this team.