The New York Liberty trade of Carolyn Swords to Seattle at first glance did not seem necessary. Swords solidified the center position since arriving two years ago contributing greatly to their two winning seasons.
“This was a tough decision to make,” Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer said, “Carolyn has been a great teammate and an exemplary member of the New York Liberty; she will do well for Seattle.”
But this trade, which secured the Washington Mystics the No. 6 pick of the Storm in the 2017 WNBA Draft and an exchange of second rounders with Seattle also brought two players to New York more for improved chemistry and a possible promotion.
Kia Vaughn, the Bronx native and 2009 pick of the Liberty returns to the Big Apple along with guard Bria Hartley, the North Babylon High School and University of Connecticut product who was the 7th overall player selected in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Bill Laimbeer pointed out how tough a decision it was but is aware of the quality he is getting in return.
“Bria Hartley enjoyed a great deal of success as champion on a big stage at UConn,” Laimbeer said, “Kia Vaughn will bring toughness and experience to our front court, and she is a consummate professional basketball player.”
That last line does not sound much different than Swords. It implies Hartley will not be a starter but valuable bench piece. Vaughn is three years older than Swords but a former teammate of Epiphanny Prince at Rutgers.
Kiah Stokes, now in her third season with a growing offensive arsenal has the potential with her total game to approach Tina Charles status in the near future. Stokes also has very good chemistry with Charles on the court when playing side-by-side.
Stir into the mix Hartley, who is a former teammate of Stokes at Connecticut and you get the real possibility of a promotion for Kiah Stokes not so dissimiliar to the Dennis Rodman and John Salley rise from super subs to the starting five in the Detroit Pistons glory years which is not lost on Laimbeer or team president Isiah Thomas.
The Liberty may be looking at the advantages of familiarity and improved athleticism as keys to getting the Liberty over the hump and into championship contention. The Stokes-Hartley and Vaughn-Prince aspects may bring New York more chemistry on the court as friends with benefits.
Certainly with Swords slowing down noticeably with injuries taking a toll and replacing her with two better athletes makes the Liberty more flexible. But inserting Stokes in at center along with Charles may be the mastermove that brings that elusive WNBA Championship home at last.