At What Price, Liberty? – 8/5/00

It was a pale and subdued Liberty coach who met with reporters after tonight’s game. Not because the Liberty lost, for they hadn’t, but because of whom the Liberty lost during the game: all-star point guard Teresa Weatherspoon.

Talking with reporters before the evening’s key match up against the Orlando Miracle, coach Richie Adubato was buoyant, even giddy. His team was playing its best ball of the season; they’d clinched a berth in the playoffs, and were looking to seal first place in the Eastern Conference.

But with 7:32 left in the second half, Weatherspoon and her Orlando counterpart, Shannon Johnson, got tangled up on a fast break as Johnson went for a steal. They both went down in a heap, Johnson on top of Weatherspoon. Johnson popped up, and patted Weatherspoon before joining her teammates down the court. To the dismay of all watching, Weatherspoon lay motionless on the end line.

It is unclear whether it was a foot, a camera or a chair, but something struck Weatherspoon hard enough to fracture her nose and, it seemed, knock her momentarily unconsciousness.

As team trainer Lisa White and team physician Susan Craig Scott tended to Weatherspoon, the Liberty gathered at together and tried to stay focused. Around them, the 17,000 plus fans tried to keep up their energy by initiating “the wave.”

After a seemingly endless four minutes, Weatherspoon was helped off the court to the dressing room. She eventually returned to the Liberty bench, receiving a standing ovation, but it was clear she was not going to step back on to the court.

Adubato turned over the ball handling and leadership to guards Becky Hammon and Vickie Johnson, and they helped guide the Liberty to a win, clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I was very proud of our team,” said Adubato after the win. “We really haven’t played without Spoon this year. She averages about 34 minutes game and she runs our team 95 percent of the time.”

“It was definitely a superlative team effort, without question. We could have folded it up. There was still plenty of time for us to lose our poise, lose our confidence and have them take us out of this game, and maybe take it over. I was really proud of the way they played. And hopefully Spoon will be fine for our game on Sunday (against Miami), but we won’t know until tomorrow.”

While some may argue that the Liberty would be wise to rest her, Weatherspoon is a fierce competitor. One can imagine her eager to do battle with Sol point guard Debbie Black. And to continue to match Andrea Stinson as the only two WNBA players that have started ever game since the leagues inception in 1997.

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