Kiah Stokes rejoined the Liberty in Brooklyn for Tuesday night’s loss to Chicago after taking a four-game timeout to try out for Turkey’s Olympic team. She tried to catch some of the Liberty’s western swing from overseas.
"It was tough to watch all of the games because it’s at, like, 3 or 4 in the morning, so I was trying to get some sleep," Stokes said after the shootaround Thursday morning for the night rematch with the Sky at Barclays Center.
But the 6-3, sixth-year center saw enough of a 2-2 trip that included losses by 22 and 27 at Las Vegas, and then saw more in the 20-point setback against Chicago. The Liberty were 2-6 after their 5-1 start. So what had been missing besides an injured Natasha Howard and Sabrina Ionescu being either out or limited by an ankle problem?
Stokes had a good idea.
"I just think that as a team, we have to play with more of a sense of urgency, with a chip on our shoulder," Stokes said. "We’re not really playing like a team that has something to prove, and we have a lot to prove. Last year, we had the worst season in WNBA history. There were only two wins. We don’t want to go back to that.
"It’s not going to be easy. Every team is a great team. So the sense of urgency, the want, the will, the fight, I think that’s what we can definitely bring to every game. … I think that’s one thing that was kind of lacking.
"I know personally, just when I get in there, [I want to] have great defense, rebound, disrupt their plays, do things that I can control and hope to be that kind of spark [to] a fire. And then I think good defense leads to great offense."
The Liberty’s career leader in blocked shots and longest-tenured current member with Rebecca Allen has had a disjointed WNBA season.
Her Fenerbahce team won in the Turkish League championships this spring. But the overseas commitment led to her missing the Liberty’s first two games. Then Stokes played in six before leaving again. Despite her defensive and rebounding skills, Stokes didn’t make that Olympic team.
In total, she was averaging 17.3 minutes, 1.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, including a 13-rebound effort, in seven games off the bench for the Liberty. She’s trying to find her rhythm with the team.
"In terms of on the court, it is tough, but that’s just going to come with practice," Stokes said. "… It’s just hard to jump back in and be a thousand percent jelling with the team when I haven’t been here."