A day before she was inducted into the Liberty's Ring of Honor on Sunday, Becky Hammon met with members of the current Liberty team. Her message was succinct: "Go do something that we never accomplished."
Hammon played on the Liberty from 1999-2006 and led the team to three WNBA Finals but never won a championship. "I said, we did some great things, but go be better than we were," she said. "Go get that chip."
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It reinforced a feeling that has saturated the first-place Liberty's locker room this year. The team's lofty goals aren't born from any cockiness associated with quick success, but rather an understanding that, through chemistry and trust in each other, they are capable of winning every time they suit up.
The 10,682 at Madison Square Garden saw that in Sunday's 78-62 win over the Seattle Storm. The teams went back and forth for the first two quarters, and the Liberty (13-6) had a one-point halftime lead. But out of the break, consecutive baskets by Carolyn Swords ignited a 13-0 run that put the Liberty up 49-35 four minutes into the third quarter. The Storm (5-16) didn't get closer than eight points the rest of the way.
"It's a good feeling that when you come out and you don't have a good half, you can always come out and bring up your intensity level and come out blazing," said Epiphanny Prince, who had 11 points and five assists.
The ability to come together and rally stems from the leadership and bonding of a group that is mature yet young, one that reminds Hammon of the Liberty teams she played for a decade ago.
"[Hammon] reminisced on the times she was here," said All-Star Tina Charles, who led both teams with 29 points and eight rebounds. "Her, [Teresa] Weatherspoon and Kym Hampton. Just saying this is the closest team that's been comparable to them. How close we are, how together we are.
"When we were away for the All-Star break, I really genuinely missed my team. I missed being around them. I would rather have been with them than in Connecticut with the other girls around me. We're just a close-knit bunch. We hold each other accountable. I think that's what's been the difference."
Perhaps it was the halftime ceremony for Hammon that reminded the Liberty of her message, and the team they are capable of being.
"She was telling us how if we keep playing how we're playing, we're going to fill the Garden up every night," Prince said. "We can do what they couldn't do. She believes we can win a championship."