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Under new ownership, all is well for New York Liberty

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On Wednesday afternoon, the Liberty announced the re-signing of a key player, Brittany Boyd, A top defender, Boyd was one of four free agents the Liberty needed to sign if they’re going to rebound from last season’s 7-27 record.

The Liberty also signed French guard Marine Johannes last week.

It’s another sign that the Liberty’s fortunes have taken a turn since Joe Tsai, the Nets minority owner, bought out James Dolan in January. Dolan had been trying to dump the money-losing franchise for 17 months. Three weeks ago, Tsai and his ownership group won kudos for hiring a respected WNBA official, Jonathan Kalb, as GM.

Then, Geoff Maglioccetti of Elite Sports NY caught up with Katie Smith, the Liberty coach, and asked about Tsai. In her first public comments since the sale, Smith expressed her excitement about a new era under Tsai (and his partner, Oliver Weisberg.)

“It’s great where we’re at right now,” Smith said. “To be away from the limbo that we had for the last year and a half to now having a real, new ownership that’s behind us, that’s all in, helping us in any way we can possibly think of, it’s a great feeling. Now you can start and build.”

Smith praised and thanked MSG for its support of the Liberty, as she called the sale “tough because you appreciate everything MSG’s done for us.”

Similarly, Mark Tatum, the NBA’s deputy commissioner, has expressed his and the league’s excitement.

We’re thrilled about it,” Tatum said of the sale. “Obviously thankful to Jim (Dolan) for his decades of commitment to the Liberty, but we found we think a fantastic home for them in Joe Tsai and his group. I spent a lot of time with Joe and Oliver Weisberg on that partnership. They’re committed to it and big, big fans and supporters of it. The Liberty will stay in the New York area and with the resources and support they’ll put behind it is great for the league and fans and teams.”

Next up will be a decision on where the Liberty will play after this season. The sale to Tsai came too late to change the schedule for 2019-20, when the team will play all but two of its home games at the Westchester County Center. Dolan moved the Liberty from Madison Square Garden to White Plains before last season to cut down on costs. The move resulted in a dramatic decline in attendance since most of the fanbase is centered in the city.

There was confirmation this week that the Liberty could be moving to Brooklyn. At least one of the games not played at Westchester —an August 11 contest vs. the Seattle Storm— will be held at Barclays Center, along with a preseason exhibition against the Chinese national team on May 9. Tsai, of course, is executive vice-chairman and co-founder of Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant.

For Tsai, who’s expected to take over the Nets in 2021, it would add to his presence in the city. It’s also a good sign for Nets fans.

The Liberty open their season on May 24. The WNBA draft is April 10. The Liberty have the overall No. 2 pick.