New York Liberty: Kia Nurse comments on injury, new efforts in 2020

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 27: Kia Nurse #5, and Amanda Zahui B. #17 of the New York Liberty hi-five each other against the Phoenix Mercury on August 27, 2019 at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kia Nurse left the New York Liberty’s opening loss early on Saturday but has been enthused by the efforts both on and off the court.

Kia Nurse may be back on duty sooner than expected.

The New York Liberty’s returning All-Star and third-year point guard left the team’s opening tilt against the Seattle Storm on Saturday with an ankle sprain but was in good spirits when meeting with the media over Zoom on Monday afternoon.

“Ankles recover when they want to recover, so we’ll see when this one does,” Nurse said. ”

Head coach Walt Hopkins officially labeled Nurse as a “day-by-day” case as the Liberty prepare to take on the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night in the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble (8 p.m. ET, CBSSN). Rookie Leaonna Odom started the second half in her place. The Liberty fell 87-71 sans Nurse to the 2018 WNBA champions that welcomed back former MVPs Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. Rookie Leaonna Odom stepped in for Nurse in the second half and scored 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Nurse played 10 minutes in the Liberty’s opening day loss before her departure. She is one of two veteran returnees to the Liberty’s 2020 roster (the other being Amanda Zahui B) and is coming off an All-Star season that saw her put up 13.7 points per game (seventh amongst Eastern Conference scorers). As a young leader…only Zahui B and free agent newcomer Layshia Clarendon have more experience…the 2018 first-round draft pick has a special role in New York’s structure, a role she has described as being a “baby vet”.

She was pleased with the valiant effort the Liberty put up against Seattle, keeping things at a single-digit deficit before the Storm pulled away over the final 10 minutes.

“I was really proud of our team going up and playing fearlessly,” Nurse said. “We obviously have a lot of new faces to the league and I think they went out there and they did what they do best. They fought and they fought hard and I think we played a pretty decent game in terms of only being together for only the two weeks that we were. I was really proud of them for that and to see the young people step up.”

Nurse is a New Yorker of many talents. Her All-Star trip to Las Vegas last season saw her compete in the league’s three-point shootout, for example. She’s using those talents to make a difference off the court in these revolutionary times.

With the league dedicating its 2020 to social justice causes, Nurse is doing her part to amplify her message. She’s looking to make a difference not only in the United States, but in her native Canada as well.

“For me, it’s really understanding that (racism) might look different in another country,” Nurse said. “In Canada, it might be more microaggressions, more polite, not as blatantly in your face or on video, but it all still exists. This is all something that still happens in my country. I’m thinking along the same lines of really understanding the background behind all these stories and obviously the indigenous people in Canada as well, the aboriginal and what has happened with our history there, really focusing on amplifying our voices and learning from the past.”

Nurse expressed hope that Canadian audiences who tuned into the nationally televised game on TSN were inspired by the WNBA’s opening day tributes to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American victim of police brutality. Players from each of the WNBA’s dozen squads wore Taylor’s name on the back of their jerseys and observed a 26-second moment of silence prior to tip-off. Members of the Liberty also partook in a video calling for the arrest of Taylor’s murderers. Nurse said it was “an extremely tough” video to film, but it was something the team “really wanted to put forward”.

Should Nurse miss Wednesday’s showdown with the Wings, it’ll be a Bradenton-based battle of the WNBA’s youngest teams. New York and Dallas’ respective rosters feature ten rookies between them, including Megan Walker on the Liberty side. Nurse’s fellow University of Connecticut alumna entered the bubble with a pair of negative COVID-19 tests. She was chosen ninth overall in April’s draft, eight slots after the Liberty took Sabrina Ionescu with the top choice. Walker partook in Monday’s practice, though, like Nurse’s return, Hopkins was reluctant to put a timetable on Walker making her debut.

“She didn’t look out of sorts, she didn’t look lost,” Hopkins said. “She looked good. Her energy was good…She looked pretty sharp all things considered.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags