(Swin Cash (No. 32) with her Liberty Teammates Photo: Lolita Beckwith)
With a a nice blend of young players and veterans, the 16-7 New York Liberty have the best record in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference.
And it’s no coincidence that they are led by Swin Cash, who is now in her 14th season.
Cash has the second longest career of current WNBA players. Only DeLisha Milton-Jones, who was traded for Cash last season in a deal with Atlanta, has been around longer.
Cash is a four-time All-Star who is very familiar with head coach Bill Laimbeer. The former Pistons Bad Boy began coaching the Detroit Shock in 2002, the year Cash entered the league. They won WNBA titles in 2003 and 2006 but Cash left after the 2007 season, in part due to a strained relationship with Laimbeer.
Both player and coach kept winning. Detroit won another title in 2008 and Cash won a title in 2010 with the Seattle Shock. Now Cash can be part of a championship run with the Pistons legend.
“He has changed a little bit but I think he’s still as intense as ever as he was in Detroit,” Cash said. “But I think when teams change and cities change you have to adapt to where you are right now, so I think he’s adapted to where he’s at right now in New York.”
After leaving Seattle, Cash played in Chicago before two seasons. Then came 17 games with Atlanta before being traded to New York during the 2014 season.
It’s been an impressive season so far for the Liberty who went 11-23 and 15-19 in Laimbeer’s first two seasons as head coach. Cash sees some parallels between the Liberty and the championship teams in Detroit and Seattle.
“We have a lot of similar traits from the standpoint of we have good chemistry on our team,” Cash said. “We have a nice blend of veterans mixed with youth and some experience. We’ve been working really hard. Our staple’s really been on the defensive end. Every team that I’ve been able to win a championship with, that’s kind of been their M.O.”
Although Cash has the most experience, she is not the only leader in the locker room.
“I think it’s really done by committee,” Cash said. “If you look around our room, Tanisha [Wright] and I both played in Seattle together, won a championship, we have experience. Essence [Carson] has been here for awhile on the team, and a player like Tina [Charles], franchise players. That’s what’s kind of refreshing, is that we have so many people that have the ability to lead.”
The last time the Liberty made the WNBA Finals was in 2002, Cash’s rookie year. New York heads into the final third of the regular season as the team to beat in the East.
“Everybody’s still gunning for us. We know we’re on top,” said Laimbeer after New York’s 81-76 loss to the relocated Tulsa Shock on Saturday. “We’ve accomplished nothing so far. All we’ve done is put ourselves in a position to have an opportunity to be successful, but there’s still a heckuva long way to go.”