GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The star-laden Liberty opened training camp Monday without any of its new marquee players, as Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Nicole Powell and Cappie Pondexter are finishing up with their teams overseas.
Much of the excitement was generated by the absent new faces. The organization believes that these new additions will make the team a contender again.
"We will compete for it," Liberty coach Anne Donovan said when asked about winning a WNBA title. "I'm not going to back down from that. We have the kind of personnel coming in with championship experience that they know what it takes."
The big question for the three is whether they can bring back an edge to a team that is coming off a very disappointing 2009 season. The Liberty was expected to contend for a title last year but posted a 13-21 mark. The season also included a coaching change as Donovan took over for Pat Coyle in August after the Liberty opened 6-11.
"Last year was very disappointing. The expectations were high and we didn't meet our expectations," general manager Carol Blazejowski said. "In the offseason, we said we can't take the risk of having more of the same, so let's see what we can do here."
Blazejowski is counting on the new players to bring a new mindset to the team. All three have won championships - Pondexter in 2007 and 2009 with the Mercury, Powell with the Monarchs in 2005 and McWilliams with the Shock in 2008.
The most impressive newcomer is Pondexter, whom the Liberty acquired along with Kelly Mazzante in a trade with Phoenix on March 30. Pondexter averaged 19.1 points in last season's playoffs.
After being one of the lowest- scoring teams in the league the past few years, the Liberty figures to be more up-tempo and offensive-minded this season. Pondexter has averaged 19.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in her four-year career, Powell is coming off a season in which she led Sacramento with 16.7 points per game, and McWilliams has averaged 12.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in her 11-year career.
Pondexter also has close ties to several people in the organization. She played for Donovan on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team and played alongside Kia Vaughn and Essence Carson at Rutgers.
"She's a competitor, a winner and a warrior," Carson said of Pondexter.
Donovan also is excited about reuniting with Pondexter, even though their time together will be limited. Donovan recently accepted a job coaching at Seton Hall and will not be back with the Liberty after this season.