Liberty center Tari Phillips unlikely to return

Friday, November 19th 2004, 8:14 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ All-Star center Tari Phillips, who sat out most of last season with a broken hand, probably won't return to the New York Liberty next season.

``It's not due to her own choice,'' Alicia Phillips, her agent and sister, said Thursday. ``Tari's intention and desire is to continue and end her career with the Liberty.''

Alicia Phillips said there was no indication that New York wanted Phillips back for another year.

Tari, who played in two WNBA Finals with the Liberty, was healthy heading into the playoffs but was not activated from the injured list. Her one-year contract expired Nov. 1, making her an unrestricted free agent.

Phillips broke her right shooting hand while trying out for the U.S. national team in Prague in March. She reinjured that hand in late June. Originally expected to be out four to six weeks, Phillips never returned.

``It was a mystery to me why I wasn't (playing),'' she said. ``My teammates asked me about it on occasion. 'We need you, girl.' I said, 'Hey, I'm ready.' ``

The Liberty team doctor did not think her hand was healed, and a second opinion from an Orlando Magic team doctor did not convince management, Alicia said.

Tari said it was especially hard to watch from the sideline during the playoffs. The Liberty were swept by the Connecticut Sun in two games in the Eastern Conference finals on Oct. 3.

Phillips helped New York advance to the WNBA Finals against the Houston Comets in 2000 and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2002. The 35-year-old Phillips, who played one season in Orlando, averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in her six-year career.

WNBA teams can negotiate player contracts between Jan. 15-31 and sign players on Feb 1. Interim Liberty coach Pat Coyle said she could not comment on player personnel issues.

Former Liberty coach Richie Adubato, fired during a midseason slump, expects Phillips to be picked up by a WNBA team.

``She's still a great defender and excellent rebounder,'' Adubato said. ``She's a fierce competitor.''

Phillips, whose mother died last month of chronic lung disease, is still considering her overseas options.