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Laimbeer pointed to both Ford and Bone as players who will improve New York’s rebounding, which has been one of the team’s weak points in recent years. While the Liberty have not had a player put up more than 6.9 rebounds per game since Elena Baranova in 2005, Ford has averaged 10.8 points and 9.7 boards over 196 games in her WNBA career, and Bone _ selected No. 5 overall in this year’s WNBA draft _ averaged 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in two years at Texas A&M.

Ford is back in the league after sitting out the last three years to rest and recover from injuries. However, she played in Europe during the last three winters.

“She looks good, a monster on the boards still,” Smith said. “She’s got great hands, still can finish ducks in with the best of them. She looks great. … Still is feisty and a great rebounder. She hasn’t lost her tools that she’s been good at and is still good at.”

Katie Smith, brought in for her leadership, is third on the league’s career scoring list with 6,244 points _ trailing only Seattle’s Tina Thompson (7,009) and the retired Lisa Leslie (6,263). However, entering her 15th season in the WNBA, Smith said this will likely be her finale as a player.

“I’m so excited about this year, so excited about playing and helping this team any way I can,” she said. “(But) I think I’m ready to move and transition to the next and finish grad school. I would like to coach. … I’m ready to let this part go and be done, close this chapter and move on to the next.”

The Liberty are entering their third and final season of playing home games at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., while Madison Square Garden undergoes the last phase of its three summers of renovations. They open the league’s 17th season at Connecticut on May 25, and then host Tulsa in the home opener on May 31.


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