The San Antonio Stars begin the 2017 WNBA season with an Empire State of Mind, as they take on the New York Liberty. New York is led by Tina Charles, who finished second in MVP voting last season. The Stars are out to show their improvement after an offseason of several changes. Here are three things to watch.
- Vickie Johnson’s first regular season game as a head coach.
Johnson returns to New York with her new head coaching position for a matchup against the Liberty. While some players will be missing, it still gives fans the chance to see the new system she has implemented.
During the offseason, she stated this team would look to push the pace and defend. With this in mind, it is going to be intriguing to see how the players respond, especially with this being the first real game of the year.
Johnson’s first test against her former team is just one of the reasons this game will be one to watch. New York is projected to be a top team in the league as well, so they will provide a stiff challenge.
- Nia Coffey’s regular season debut
Even though No. 1 overall pick Kelsey Plum will be sidelined with an ankle injury, there is still another rookie making her debut in the regular season. Coffey, who is coming off a solid preseason, has the mix of size and athleticism to excel in Silver and Black.
At Northwestern, Coffey was a stat-stuffing extraordinaire. Whether it was scoring, rebounding or making plays, she was a part of it. So, one thing to watch will be how she adjusts to real game situations.
Coffey has all the physical tools to be a contributor for the Stars, and with injuries to some key players, she should be receiving major minutes to prove herself early on.
- The post rotation
Over the years, one of San Antonio’s weaknesses has been the lack of production from the post. However, after an offseason of shuffling players around, the rotation has a completely new look.
Newly-acquired center Isabelle Harrison gave fans a glimpse of her potential during the preseason. She recorded 22 points and seven rebounds in the Stars’ 73-59 loss to the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks in the preseason finale. Harrison brings athleticism, toughness and energy to San Antonio, and will be a nice complement to the dynamic backcourt once everyone is healthy.
Dearica Hamby is entering her third season in the WNBA, and looks better than ever. After missing the final games of the season due to pregnancy a year ago, she is poised to continue her development. Hamby has steadily improved with each season, and this one should be no different. In her lone preseason game against the Dallas Wings, she had 11 points, seven rebounds, two steals and an assist in 17 minutes.
Kayla Alexander has been in San Antonio the longest out of anyone on the roster, and looks to build on her success from last season. Last year, she averaged career-highs in minutes, points and rebounds per game. She also shot an impressive 54 percent from the floor. As one of the veterans, Alexander is in a position to lead and produce at a high level.
Veteran Erika de Souza may not produce like she did in previous seasons, but will still be a valuable asset. De Souza will be used to mentor and lead this young group, and brings a sense of positivity and energy. Acquired this offseason through free agency, she will be one of the leaders on and off the floor throughout the season.
Prediction – With so many players out, it is hard to come up with a winning scenario. New York is a strong team, and Charles will be a load to deal with on both ends of the floor. I expect the Stars to display snappiness, but in the end, the Liberty should win by double-digits.
Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. CT from Madison Square Garden. The game will the broadcasted live on NBATV.