NEW YORK CITY – About 40 minutes prior to game time, players were on the court, stretching, practicing ball handling and shooting to get in rhythm with the rim. A normal pre-game routine. Virtually everyone exited for the locker room. An exception was Tina Charles. The New York Liberty center stayed outside to spend about 15 minutes working on free throw shooting.
Charles received the ball from a ball boy, bent the knees, kept eyes on the rim and shot. She continued and stayed focused. It was an exercise bringing back memories of years past.
Back a few decades, not years, teams in high school gyms on cold nights would shoot around prior to game time with someone always on the charity stripe working on free throws. Why did they warm up this way? Because the pros and college teams did and they were simply following the example that was set.
Today, unfortunately, it is rare to see an individual take time to work on free throws. Those days have gone the way of Chuck Taylor Converse and sweaters on cheerleaders. Thank the highlight reel mentality with an assist from beyond the arc. Kids want to make fancy moves and bury treys, not worry about cashing in on the point the uncontested shot from the line will give you.
On this afternoon at Madison Square Garden, the Liberty upset the Minnesota Lynx 87-80. Charles led the way with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Sound in her game prep, it was no surprise the fundamentals carried over to the game: Setting a target in the post, catching, pivoting, shooting and securing rebounding position.
It was not all Charles, as Cappie Pondexter added 18 and 11 boards while Anna Cruz played a solid floor game (10 points, 3 assists) and coach Bill Laimbeer noted, “the role players gave us what we needed.”
Now the Liberty, at 7-11, have a three-game win streak and the momentum of four wins in their last five contests. One added stat of note, Charles was a perfect four-for-four from the line.
Our entrance to Madison Square Garden, off 33rd Street:
Minnesota assistant Jim Peterson relaxes about 45 minutes prior to tipoff:
Yours truly with Cecil King. A coach with the highly successful New York Gazelles, King was awarded a community service honor by the Liberty. I had the honor of officiating with King and later wrote a story about him coaching Tina Charles during her Gazelle days: (Photo courtesy of M. Saidra McLaughlin)
A familiar face, former St. John's star Nadirah McKenith is now with the Lynx, and chatted about her new club and love of St. John's: