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Liberty and Storm to ring in the new WNBA season on ESPN

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2020 New York Liberty Media Day Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

It's a brand new world. After a year of changes on the roster and in the world we live in, the New York Liberty begin the 2020 season with a new coach, new franchise player, and new purpose. We'll get to all the changes in a bit.

Ringing in the new season with the Liberty will be the Seattle Storm. The Storm overcame a series of devastating injuries in 2019 to make it to the playoffs, but now that they're at full strength they have a great chance to make some noise this year.

Where to follow the game

ESPN has the honors of broadcasting the first regular season pro basketball game since March of this year. Tip off is at high noon.

Injuries

Asia Durr will not be playing this season as she continues to recover from coronavirus. Rebecca Allen will not be playing this season as well. Megan Walker had a bout of COVID, but she’s on the mend and has entered the “bubble,” or if you want, the “wubble,” as it’s been nicknamed. She’ll be in quarantine until she receives the heads up to join her teammates on the court.

The Storm are at full strength.

The game

Much like their peers in the NBA, the WNBA will try to complete a season in a “bubble.” The W is currently in Bradenton, Florida and will be there for the entire 2020 season. After an incredibly rocky start, it appears as if everyone is comfortable in the new setting. Hopefully we can make it through the season without any difficulties.

What a time to make your head coaching debut. Walt Hopkins was named Liberty coach back in January, replacing Katie Smith. Hopkins figures to have the team playing at a more uptempo pace and the threes will be flying. New York was in the bottom third of the league even though they were third in pace. It’s going to be a transition for the team and the fans as franchise icon Tina Charles now resides in DC with the Mystics. (She too is out of the season, however, having received a medical exemption for extrinsic asthma, a COVID co-morbidity.)

When you’ve got an incredibly young team like the Liberty, it pays to have some grownups on the squad as well. Amanda Zahui B and free agent acquisition Layshia Clarendon will be guiding the seven rookies on how to adjust to the pro game among other things. The pressure on the team is at zero so the kids will have plenty of time to learn the game and ease into things naturally... or as naturally as the pandemic will allow for.

We’ll get to see one of the league’s best teams today. Seattle is the early favorite to win the championship this year and they boast arguably the most talented roster in the league. When they were last at full strength, they won the 2018 Championship and with teams like Connecticut (Jonquel Jones) and Las Vegas (Liz Cambage) missing their superstars, the Storm figure to make a lot of noise this season.

Making her return to the hardwood will be former MVP Breanna Stewart. Stewart had to miss the 2019 season after tearing her Achilles tendon in international play. With the new WNBA CBA in the books, hopefully players won’t have to go overseas to earn good money. So how would you describe Stewie to someone that’s never seen her play before? Friend of the site Mike Prada sums it up quite nicely:

Fuse Kevin Durant’s scoring balance, Dirk Nowitzki’s pick-and-pop game, and Hakeem Olajuwon’s post footwork together, and you get Stewart. She can score at all three levels (post, mid-range, three), play on or off the ball, and shift easily from dangerous decoy primary scorer at a moment’s notice.

Yeah man. With this being Stewart’s first game back, don’t expect her to play a huge amount of minutes. Zahui B

Player to watch: Sabrina Ionescu

Welcome to the future! Ionescu enters the W after a storied career at the University of Oregon and the weight of the franchise on her shoulders. Sabrina can do it all and the combo of Ionescu and 2019 All Star Kia Nurse should make for a potent perimeter scoring duo for many years to come. Ionescu will be running the show and her versatility and do-it-all toolset will help the Liberty get out on the break and find great looks on offense.

Speaking of returns, welcome back Sue Bird! Bird is back after missing all of 2019 due to a knee injury. Having one of the game’s icons back in action is great for fans and more importantly, for the Storm’s title chances.

From the Vault

It's been an incredibly depressing year, and we took another loss with the passing of John Lewis last week. Let’s take a trip back into March 2015 and listen to his speech in Selma.

Jam session

On a happier note, Lianne La Havas is back so let’s head to the Tiny Desk and have some fun