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Two international stars won’t play for Liberty this year

The Liberty announced Tuesday that two of their international players — China’s Han Xu and France’s Marine Johannes — will remain overseas this season when and if it re-starts. The WNBA’s season remains in question. Xu and Johannes are expected to join the Liberty again for the 2021 season.

The two are the latest international players to opt out of playing in the U.S. this season, in large part because of the pandemic. Many WNBA players will participate in overseas leagues during the fall, the WNBA in the summer.

The players’ decision will help the Liberty get down to 12 players. They also waived Reshanda Gray, a 6’2” forward who had signed a non-guaranteed contract last month.

In announcing the moves, the Liberty reported...

In light of game scheduling changes in her home country due to COVID-19, Han is unable to report for the 2020 WNBA season. Similarly, Johannés will not report for personal reasons. The team remains in close contact with them and looks forward to welcoming them back for the 2021 season.

The women’s league in China, the WCBA, has been suspended since January. Xu plays for WCBA team, the Xinjiang Tian Shan Magic Deer. The 6’9’’ center appeared in 18 games averaging 3.0 points and 0.8 rebounds during her rookie campaign, setting her scoring record with 12 points against the Connecticut Sun on August 30, 2019.

Johannés, a 5’10” guard, joined the Liberty in 2019 after her overseas commitments. She appeared in 19 games during her rookie WNBA season averaging 7.7 points and 2.4 assists per game. She told French media on Friday she had been social distancing with her parents at their home in Bonnebosq, France, Sarah Valenzuela of the Daily News reports. The last time she played a game was on March 11 with Lyon Asvel Feminin, a French women’s basketball team in the country’s Ligue Feminine de Basketball.

Both Han and Johannes were fan favorites.

The WNBA season remains in limbo. It was supposed to open May 15, with the Liberty moving into Barclays Center. One possibility broached earlier in the month was the WNBA joining the NBA at World Disney World but that hasn’t come up in recent discussions about the NBA’s return-to-play.