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Will Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu be the star of the ‘wubble?’

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First of all, “wubble” is not our word. It’s a nickname given the WNBA “bubble” in Bradenton, Florida, about a hundred miles southwest of the NBA’s version.

Now that that’s out of the way, it appears the “wubble” is going to be about Sabrina Ionescu, the charismatic overall No. 1 pick of the Liberty in April’s WNBA Draft. The All-Everything out of Oregon is going to be featured on national television five times, including the WNBA’s delayed opener on July 25, a game the league seems to have set up with its past and future in mind.

Ionescu and the Liberty will face off against Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, who between them have won three WNBA titles for the Seattle Storm. Both missed all of last season to injury. As ESPN’s Kevin Pelton writes...

The 2020 campaign tips off with the first matchup between Ionescu and Bird, two point guards with ties to the Pacific Northwest at opposite ends of their careers. For Bird and Stewart, it will be their first WNBA action since helping the Storm win the 2018 championship before surgeries ended their 2019 seasons before they even began. Both players returned to the court for USA Basketball last off-season, including Bird playing against Ionescu as Oregon became just the second college team ever to beat the national team.

And despite the fact that the Liberty finished with the second worst record in the WNBA last season, Joe Tsai’s team will play the second most nationally televised games on ESPN or ABC during the 2020 season with five. Only four teams — the Storm, Las Vegas Aces, Sparks and Mercury — will play six. The YES Network has the local TV rights for the Liberty which was supposed to open their first season at Barclays Center back in May before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The WNBA released its 132-game 2020 schedule on Monday. Much like the NBA, the WNBA will feature virtually non-stop games, with three games a day at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Players, coaches and staff will remain isolated on the IMG campus throughout the season. Each of the league’s 12 teams will play 22 games in the regular season, a shortened version of the traditional 34-game season.

The regular season concludes on September 12 with playoffs to follow, also at IMG. The playoff format, like the NBA’s will remain the same. In the WNBA, the first and second rounds are single elimination, with five-game series for the semifinals and WNBA Finals.

The Liberty are in rebuild mode with seven rookies out of 12 players and a rookie head coach, Walt Hopkins. Asia Durr, who was the overall No. 2 in the 2019 Draft, has been suffering from COVID-19 since June 8 and will not play. One of the rookies, forward Megan Walker, has also tested positive but has remained asymptomatic. She hopes to rejoin the team in Bradenton at some point.

“This 2020 WNBA season will truly be one unlike any other, and we’re looking forward to using our collective platform to highlight the tremendous athletes in the WNBA as well as their advocacy for social change,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement Monday.

Ionescu became the first player, man or woman, to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in an NCAA career. Her dominance can be tallied up in a number of ways but one is in the bagful of awards she’s won.

Just this year, the 5’11” point guard won the Naismith Player of the Year, the AP Player of the Year, the Basketball Writers Player of the Year (2020) etc., etc. National brands want her endorsement. In virtually every aspect of her game, she’s a game changer. Being in New York will help her stardom.

Moreover, once the Nets and Liberty are back in Brooklyn, expect a lot of crossover marketing between the teams. Back in April when she was drafted, Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris welcomed her to Brooklyn.

Ionescu was also close to Kobe and Gigi Bryant and spoke at their memorial service in Staples Center.

Meanwhile, the New York Times on Monday did a lengthy feature on Amanda Zahui B, the Liberty’s 6’5” Swedish center and another rising star for the New Yorkers. The Times Seth Berkman focuses on how having been schooled in activism as a member of the Liberty, took her politics to Sweden.

“I wanted to march the streets with everyone,” she said of watching Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., particularly New York. “But at the same time, we have so much work to do in Sweden. You have to start at home” -