Washington -- Shay Doron was on the verge of telling a reporter what the biggest challenge has been in her rookie year in the WNBA when a crisis erupted.
Barbara Farris, Doron's New York Liberty teammate, found her flip-flop in Doron's bag in the locker room after the Liberty's game with the Washington Mystics on Friday night and, with her tongue firmly in her cheek, accused the former Maryland guard of trying to make off with her shoe.
"You keep putting it in there," Doron said.
"Really?" Farris said.
"Yeah. I kept throwing it out because I was like, `Why ... is this big ... flip-flop in there?'" Doron said, before turning back to the reporter. "See what I have to deal with? It's rookie abuse right here."
If only Doron's season were this much fun. The former Terps star has played in only seven of New York's 27 games, drawing the dreaded "Did Not Play -- Coach's Decision" in the Liberty's past 11 games.
Doron's inability to get off the bench in Friday's 80-68 loss to Washington drew a mild protest from the portion of the crowd of 6,801 - clad in Maryland red - who had come to see the player who helped lead the Terps to the program's first national championship in April 2006 in her first area appearance since being drafted in April.
A woman, sitting behind the basket adjacent to the New York bench, held up a homemade sign that read simply, "Play Shay." The plea was simple, direct, heartfelt and unheeded.
"I saw the sign," Doron said. "I heard everybody. It was just a great feeling. It's good to be home."
In a perfect world, Doron, 5 feet 9, who is averaging 1.4 points, would have come back to the area as the conquering heroine, primed to use her championship experience to help the Liberty (11-16) on a push for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The reality is that Doron, a second-round pick - the 16th overall - is the fourth guard in a four-guard rotation, reduced to sitting and waiting for an opportunity.
"It's a matter of patience," Doron said. "You have to stay patient and believe in yourself. I'm doing both of those. I know that when I get my chance, I'm going to be ready.
"That's all I can do. That's all I can control, is playing hard in practice, staying patient, learning as much as I can and being ready when my name is called."
Indeed, New York coach Pat Coyle said Doron's lack of playing time is no reflection on her talent, but rather a reflection of how much she has to learn.
"It's tough for these kids," said Coyle, who won 100 games at Loyola College, taking the Greyhounds to two NCAA tournaments in seven years. "They are all stars in college. They were all successful or they wouldn't be at this level."
"But it's like anything else. It's like when they came from high school to college. There's such a learning curve," she said.
"The game's quicker. It's bigger. It's faster. I don't care who you are. There's a learning curve, and it takes time. I think you're seeing that with a lot of these rookies," Coyle said.
Doron, Maryland's No. 2 all-time scorer behind Vicky Bullett, is 23rd among WNBA rookies in average minutes played.
But, then, only four rookies are averaging more than 20 minutes this year, and just one, Chicago Sky guard Armintie Price, the third overall pick, is playing for a team in the playoff race.
Doron, who played at Christ the King High in New York, is likely to get extensive playing time this fall and winter when she returns to her native Israel, for the first time in seven years, to play in a league there.
"It [going to Israel] is going to be awesome," Doron said. "I heard we're going to sell out every night. It's kind of reviving women's basketball in Israel. To be a part of that is probably better than any win."
Until then, Doron will try to do some meaningful things. One is to continue to donate some of her Maryland memorabilia for an online auction to raise money for breast cancer support and research.
The other is to watch and learn and wait for her chance to improve.
"Obviously, I've never been in position like this," Doron said. "It's only going to make me stronger and better. I'm just learning how to deal with adversity and making this experience make me a better person and a better player."