Liberty enter season with huge WNBA title hopes
Welcome to the Liberty’s superteam period.
After a dramatic offseason through which the Liberty accomplished an formidable blueprint by bringing three celebrity targets to Brooklyn, they vaulted to standing as WNBA co-favorites alongside the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.
Now, starting with Friday night time’s regular-season opener in Washington in opposition to the Mystics, they’re carrying the hopes of delivering the unique WNBA franchise’s first championship — which might be New York Metropolis’s first professional basketball title in 50 years.
“To have these expectations, meaning we’ve earned them, proper?” Liberty common supervisor Jonathan Kolb mentioned. “That’s from this offseason and we embrace these expectations, however we all know what comes with them.”
The Liberty’s aggressive offseason tipped in January, once they acquired 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones in a blockbuster three-team commerce.
Jones, a four-time All-Star ahead, requested to be traded to New York with one yr left on a two-year deal in Connecticut, the place she had led two Solar groups to the finals, together with final season.
The Liberty additionally added useful ahead Kayla Thornton from Dallas within the deal.
Then got here the monumental signing of Breanna Stewart, the WNBA’s most sought-after free agent — maybe the most important free agent within the historical past of a league that solely in recent times empowered gamers to decide on their locations — following a multi-year, cross-continental courtship.
Stewart, the 2018 MVP and a two-time champion with the Seattle Storm, beforehand met with the Liberty as a free agent earlier than the 2022 season.
This time round, as a Liberty contingent led by co-owner Clara Wu Tsai flew to Istanbul for a gathering with Stewart, the 28–year-old all-world ahead teased followers for weeks with emoji-filled tweets that hinted at her subsequent profession transfer.
Courtney Vandersloot, one of many high level guards in league historical past, topped off the Liberty’s coup by signing a number of days after Stewart, as a bundle deal, after spending 12 seasons with the Chicago Sky, with whom she received a title in 2021.
Stewart and Vandersloot every took effectively south of their most salaries to suit below the wage cap with the Liberty — Stewart on a one-year deal, Vandersloot on a two-year deal.
They be part of the group’s most distinguished holdover, 2020 No. 1 choose and 2022 All-Star guard Sabrina Ionescu, who this week agreed to a two-year contract extension to stick with the group by way of 2025.
“We have now a really gifted roster and now it’s nearly how we are able to play collectively,” Stewart mentioned. “And with the amenities and workers and everybody round us — everybody needs to be nice. So, while you’re surrounded by greatness, it’s loads simpler so that you can be like ‘All proper, I’m gonna do my greatest right now.’ ”
The battle strains have already got been drawn between these new-look Liberty and the Aces, who had an eventful offseason of their very own.
The Aces added the legendary Candace Parker on a discount contract to a core that options two-time MVP A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Grey.
In addition they had been embroiled in an issue over head coach Becky Hammon’s alleged bullying feedback to former participant Dearica Hamby.
The excessive expectations and Aces rivalry speak that marked the offseason haven’t been misplaced on the Liberty.
“Coming into this market, you already know you have got an enormous goal in your again,” Stewart mentioned. “However now as a result of everyone seems to be speaking about all these narratives and the most important free company and no matter, folks wish to beat us the second we stroll within the health club.”
But it surely’s additionally befitting a megawatt roster that bears little resemblance to the Liberty groups that went 2-20 as lately as 2020 and had been eradicated within the first spherical of the playoffs the previous two years.
The Liberty haven’t made it to the second spherical since 2017, the semifinal spherical since 2015 and the WNBA Finals since 2002, the franchise’s fourth runner-up end within the league’s first six years.
“We wish to win,” mentioned head coach Sandy Brondello, in her second yr with the group. “We’ve bought all these nice gamers. Profitable a championship, that’s the final word aim. However … we don’t win championships within the preseason. We don’t win them within the begin of the season, we win them on the finish.”