The New York Liberty don't have a lot of time left to make a playoff push, but they do have a top player back to help them do it.
Guard/forward Betnijah Laney returned to action Saturday after being out since May due to a knee injury. Laney played 21 minutes, getting seven points and four rebounds in the Liberty's 76-62 loss at Phoenix.
New York fell to 13-19 and is in ninth place behind the 14-19 Mercury, who got a big win for their postseason hopes despite not having stars Skylar Diggins-Smith (non-COVID illness) and Diana Taurasi (quad injury). The top eight teams make the WNBA playoffs.
Laney's return might be of even greater importance if forward Natasha Howard is out any length of time. Howard left Saturday's game with a right ankle injury; she is the Liberty's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer this season. There was no update on Howard's status after the game.
"Just trying to be my best self while I'm out there," Laney said when asked what she could bring to the Liberty, who have four games left in the regular season. "I'm trying to continue to find my rhythm and get my legs back under me. Just trying to go out there and play hard."
Laney had an arthroscopic partial meniscectomy on her right knee on June 1. She was the Liberty's leading scorer last season at 16.8 points per game and played four games this season for New York, averaging 13.3 points per game before being sidelined.
Saturday marked her first game since May 17.
The former Rutgers standout was the WNBA's most improved player in 2020 with the Atlanta Dream before signing as a free agent with the Liberty in 2021.
"I think she tried hard, she competed," Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. "She didn't know all the plays and got a little lost in some situations. But any minutes we can give her are beneficial as we move forward."
The Liberty finish with back-to-back games at Dallas on Monday and Wednesday. Then they play at Atlanta on Friday and finish the regular season against Atlanta at home in Brooklyn, New York.
"Hopefully, she can help us a lot," Brondello said of Laney. "Just with her toughness and her ability to open the floor up and also penetrate and post up. But she hasn't played for a while, so I try not to put any big, high expectations on her. I just want her to have patience. All the hard work she's put in, it's going to pay off."