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LIBERTY MAKE BIG TRADE IN PREPARATION FOR MOVE TO BROOKLYN

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WNBA Championship Portraits Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The Liberty announced today that the team has acquired three-time WNBA Champion Natasha Howard and two-time champion Sami Whitcomb from the Seattle Storm in separate trade transactions. The Liberty had to give up the overall No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft to acquire Howard.

The WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and its Most Improved Player the year before, Howard brings instant credibility to the Liberty who are moving to Barclays Center this season after last year in the WNBA “bubble” in Bradenton, Florida, and two previous seasons at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Joe and Clara Tsai purchased the team from James Dolan in January 2019.

The deal for Howard, a sign-and-trade at near the WNBA maximum, is the Liberty’s second biggest move in the WNBA off-season. Last week, the Liberty signed free agent wing Betnijah Laney, the WNBA’s Most Improved Player and a Rutgers product, also to a big deal. And, of course, the Liberty will have the services of Sabina Ionescu, the overall No. 1 in the 2020 WNBA Draft who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in New York’s third game in Bradenton.

The Howard deal was part of an active day for the Liberty’s GM, Jonathan Kolb. The Liberty executed three trades among three teams to bring Howard and Whitcomb to the Big Apple.

• Liberty acquired the 6th overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft and a 2022 First Round pick from the Phoenix Mercury in exchange for guard Kia Nurse and forward Megan Walker.

• New York sent its 2021 No.1 overall pick, 2022 First Round pick acquired in the Mercury trade and its own 2022 Second Round pick to the Seattle Storm in exchange for forward Natasha Howard (via sign-and-trade).

• Liberty acquired guard Sami Whitcomb from Seattle via sign-and-trade in exchange for the rights to forward Stephanie Talbot.

“We have the privilege of welcoming multiple-time WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb to Brooklyn,” said Kolb. “The magnitude of Natasha choosing to be in New York cannot be overstated. She is an All-WNBA talent who has worked for and earned everything that she has achieved, who has contributed to championship runs on multiple teams, and who will fit seamlessly into Walt Hopkins’ system.”

Howard, 29, is a 6’2” forward who is entering her eighth WNBA season. Howard was drafted by the Indiana Fever in 2014 where she spent two seasons, followed by two years with the Minnesota Lynx. Howard won her first WNBA Championship (2017) alongside Liberty Head Coach Walt Hopkins, then an assistant coach in Minnesota. During her three-year tenure with the Seattle Storm, Howard secured two additional WNBA Championships in 2018, and last season.

“I am very excited to be a part of the New York Liberty organization,” said Howard. “I’m also excited to meet my new teammates and the fans. I’m so pumped about the 2021 season.”

In the 2020 Championship season, Howard averaged 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting 53.0% from the field during the regular season. The Toledo, Ohio, native has garnered several awards including:

• 2018 WNBA Most Improved Player

• 2019 WNBA All-Star starting selection

• 2019 All-WNBA First Team honors

• 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Whitcomb. 32, is a 5’10” guard, joins the Liberty after a four-year tenure in Seattle where she helped the Storm to two WNBA titles. In Seattle’s 2020 championship season, Whitcomb averaged 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 38.1 percent from three, 44.3 percent overall and 100 percent at the free throw line (22-of-22). The Ventura, Calif. native signed as a free agent with the Storm in 2017 after competing professionally overseas for several seasons, most notably in Australia’s WNBL.

“I’m really looking forward to this new opportunity to play alongside this talented group they’re putting together,” said Whitcomb. “I’m excited to be a part of this organization’s next chapter under Walt and his staff as they grow this new culture. Can’t wait to get to New York!”

Kolb added, “Sami Whitcomb will be an instant fan favorite, not only for her elite shot making ability, but also for her tenacity and drive. A two-time champion in her own right, Sami knows what it takes to win in this league, and is exactly the kind of tough, talented, culture-first player we covet in New York.”

Nurse, the Liberty’s 10th overall selection in the 2018 WNBA Draft, averaged 11.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game over 89 contests (59 starts) during her three-year tenure with New York. Kia was voted a starter in the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game, and led the Liberty in points per game over the past two seasons.

Walker, New York’s ninth overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, saw action in 18 games during her rookie campaign. She averaged 3.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.

“I would like to thank Kia Nurse and Megan Walker for their contributions to our organization,” added Kolb. “The unfortunate part of transactions such as these is that you have to say goodbye to people who have contributed to the team in so many ways.

The Liberty currently hold overall picks Nos. 6, 25 and 29 in the 2021 WNBA Draft The WNBA has not yet announced a date for the event.