The Aces prepare for every game the same way — by shooting from half court for a chance to win coach Bill Laimbeer’s money.
Laimbeer has implemented a half-court shooting contest at the end of game-day shootarounds, designed in part for his players to have some fun before games and to win back the money they paid to him in fines between games.
Veteran center Carolyn Swords is among the better half-court shooters on the team and has the most victories — unofficially — but she says Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum and Ji-Su Park provide plenty of competition.
“It starts to get a little competitive because someone will get hot for a little while,” said Swords, who has won twice this season. “I had a really good July last year. I was hitting a bunch. The rest of the team gets tired of the same people winning, and they also want a chance at it.”
Laimbeer began the contest in 2003 with the now defunct Detroit Shock and since has done it at his other coaching stops. Fines accumulate between games for various reasons — such as tardiness and violation of cellphone policies or dress codes.
Those fined have one shot to win their money back with a make. Miss, though, and the rest of the Aces have two chances to collect their cash before Laimbeer pockets it.
The most experienced players shoot first. Rookies shoot last.
“Everybody loves money. Free money if you hit the shot,” veteran wing Tamera Young said with a smile. “It’s a competition drill. We talk trash to each other, but if somebody makes it, we’re excited. We want somebody to make it, because if not, Bill gets his money back. We’re trying to take Bill’s money as much as we can.”
Different players have different strategies.
Swords, for instance, shoots underhanded like former NBA star Rick Barry — with lots of backspin. She said “it’s surprisingly effective.” Young likes to shoot at an angle and aim toward the top of the glass. Veteran guard Sugar Rodgers speeds up her release.
Laimbeer officiates and either keeps his money or pays a player.
Make or miss, all in good fun.
“It’s a good ice breaker at the end of a shootaround, getting ready for the game,” Laimbeer said. “Right now they’re struggling; last year they got it down.”
Who: New York Liberty at Aces
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center
Tickets: Starting at $17 on axs.com
TV/Radio: KVMY-12; KWWN (1100 AM, 100.9 FM)
About the Aces (2-3): The Aces lost 88-78 to the Liberty on Sunday despite a season-high 25 points from Kayla McBride. She’s averaging a team-high 17.2 points on 53.3 percent shooting, including 60 percent from 3-point range.
About the Liberty (2-4): The Liberty snapped their 17-game losing streak by beating the Aces, then followed with another win over the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday. Former WNBA MVP Tina Charles is averaging 21.3 points and 9.2 rebounds.