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Liberty signing Betnijah Laney, WNBA’s Most Improved Player

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Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

It was only a matter of time. The New York Liberty has made its first big free agent signing of the Joe and Clara Wu Tsai era.

Jackie Powell and Howard Megdal, writing for The Next, report that free agent wing Betnijah Laney, the WNBA’s Most Improved Player and a Rutgers product, has agreed to sign with the Liberty. Powell and Megdal call it “a significant addition to the New York talent base.”

With changes in the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement, a big reserve of cap space and the Tsai’s wealth, the Liberty appear ready to move on from their rebuilding mode as they head to Brooklyn and Barclays Center.

As Powell and Megdal write...

The process of wooing Laney included the direct efforts of Joe Tsai, with the organization emphasizing a change in lifestyle that would come with a return to the northeast for the Rutgers product.

The multi-year deal ensures that Laney, along with last year’s number one pick Sabrina Ionescu, are part of what New York sees as an opportunity to make a dramatic leap forward after last season’s 2-20 campaign.

In addition, the Liberty have the overall No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft and a number of international players ready to return to New York after staying overseas during the opening months of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other side of the pandemic’s effect on the WNBA, Asia Durr, the overall No. 2 pick in the 2019 Draft, told HBO Real Sports this week that she may not be able to return to play. Her COVID experience was that severe.

“I couldn’t breathe. I was spitting up blood,” Durr told Mary Carrillo. “[I had] lung pain that was just so severe. It felt like somebody took a long knife and was stabbing you in your lungs each second. I woke up two o’clock in the morning vomiting, going back and forth to the bathroom.”