Every so often, you have to swing for the fences. When the opportunity presents itself, you owe it to yourself to try and go from good to great. It may be tough to change what’s been working, but the opportunities for glory are endless when you take the leap.
On January 16, the New York Liberty made a move that changed the landscape of the WNBA. They acquired Dallas Wings forward, Kayla Thornton, and Connecticut Sun superstar and 2021 MVP, Jonquel Jones, in a blockbuster trade. The move was lauded all across the league and has taken the Liberty to another tier in the WNBA.
It was a banner day for the franchise as they welcomed Jones to Brooklyn Friday afternoon. Liberty General Manager, Jonathan Kolb, spoke about the trade and said:
“For me, any time you have a chance to get someone like [Jones] right here, you jump at that. You have to. Players like Jonquel do not become available very often, so the idea of pairing her with Sabrina is very exciting and I think they’re gonna be a dynamic duo for a long time. I really do.”
The pairing of Jones with her All WNBA teammate, Sabrina Ionescu, and Walking Highlight Reel, Marine Johannes, has Liberty fans excited for what the team will look like this spring and beyond. JJ spoke about the potential of herself and her new teammates in the P&R:
“I think it’s gonna be amazing. I think everyone’s gonna eat off of us being able to thrive in the pick and roll. I think defenses are definitely gonna have to respect them. They’re both players that are known to score at a high clip, be able to create their own offense, so I think it’s gonna open things up for everybody and it’s definitely gonna be mutually beneficial.”
Sandy Brondello spoke about how Jones will help build upon last year’s success
“I think you saw the development of [Ionescu’s] game last year. I think her and Natasha did great in the pick and roll game, but now we’re adding a player in the caliber of JJ. Obviously, she’s a stretch four. She can play inside. She can play outside. She’s great in the pick and roll. She’s a facilitator. So when you’ve two really great players on the court, how do teams guard it? That makes it a little harder to chess game. I spoke to JJ, and I think the sky’s the limit for her, and that’s our goal: to continue improving her game with the players that we have here, and she’s the perfect fit. We’re super excited to have her here.”
Jones mentioned being a bit more efficient out of pick-and-rolls and developing that natural rhythm and spacing with Ionescu. The Ionescu x Natasha Howard pick-and-roll tag team was fantastic last season, and Jones will turbocharge the Liberty offense and unlock a myriad of new opportunities for them. There were times last season when the Liberty couldn’t generate shots in isolation and that stymied the offense in key moments. Having a superstar like Jones that can get her own shot and score from everywhere on the court will be crucial when they face tough, physical defenses. Sandy Brondello was able to instill a lot of her core values into the team last year, and having someone like Jones that can multiply all of the great aspects of the team from 2022 is a fantastic development.
For the culture
We had some special guests at the Clays on Friday. Joining the Liberty at the press conference were:
- The Honorary Isaac Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister Of The Commonwealth Of The Bahamas
- The Honorary Leroy F. Major, Consul General to The Bahamas Consulate General in New York
- Jeffrey Rodgers, Sports Ambassador, Ministry of Tourism in New York
Jones is a proud Bahamian and reps her country with pride. Brooklyn has a large and vibrant West Indian community, and it is one of the things that drew Jones to the Liberty:
“That was one of the big things that actually drew me to New York as well. I had a list of teams and after I spoke with them on a Zoom call and the marketing team, that was an emphasis for them before I even said anything to them; the West Indian culture, what can we do, how can we tie it in? For me, I could tell they took the time to really think about where I was from, the communities and the people that we can impact, which is also extremely important to me.”
The Liberty represent from all over the world, and having a player from the West Indies in a melting pot like Brooklyn is a match made in heaven. Jones is someone that is one of the faces of the WNBA and someone who is there for the community in a lot of ways.
More to come?
The negotiation portion of WNBA free agency officially began on January 21. Teams will be able to officially sign free agents on February 1. And now, the basketball world turns to Istanbul. It is there where teams will begin negotiating with Seattle Storm superstar, Breanna Stewart. Stewart is currently playing international ball with Fenerbache and will be meeting with four teams. The final four will be the Storm, Minnesota Lynx, Washington Mystics, and Liberty. Stewie gave us a little helpful guide to follow along with as well:
⛈️ ️— Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart) January 20, 2023
For the Liberty, this meeting represents another opportunity to woo the Syracuse, NY native. Last year, Stewart met with the Liberty but decided to return to Seattle to play with Sue Bird in her final season. This time around, things might play out different.
There are reports that fellow free agent, Courtney Vandersloot, will factor into where Stewart plays next season. Vandersloot is third all time in assists and one of the best floor generals in the history of basketball. Where ever she goes, she will make that team into a contender. Khristina Wiliams of Girls Talk Sports TV reports that the team will be meeting with her this weekend
Courtney Vandersloot will be visiting New York this weekend to meet with the Liberty, league sources tell @GrlsTlkSportsTV.— Khristina Williams (@Khristina) January 21, 2023
The plot thickens.
Jonathan Kolb was asked about free agency, and while he kept his cards close to his chest, spoke about the philosophy he and the front office have going into this period:
“We’re gonna be really aggressive. I think we’re hellbent on bringing a championship. It’s what we said from 2019 and we’re gonna say it every single year. I think we’ve proven that we are willing to be aggressive and we will continue to do that. We are very excited at the opportunity to add talent and we’ll see how this plays out over the next few weeks.”
When the Liberty gave their exit interviews, they mentioned that they wanted more. More success, more growth, more playoff games, more everything. Winning a championship in New York is incredibly rare and incredibly special, and with the Liberty already landing one superstar, maybe another one is on the way. As they enter into an exciting time, their passion and aggressiveness could lead to something even more special for the fans and franchise.
- Jonquel Jones: ‘Would be amazing’ to bring Liberty title - M.A. Voepel - ESPN
- Sources: Free agent Breanna Stewart to meet with 4 WNBA teams - Ramona Shelburne - ESPN
- Sources: Charter flights a key factor for Breanna Stewart - Ramona Shelburne - ESPN
- 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones excited to be in New York - Doug Feinberg - AP
- JONQUEL JONES BRINGS WNBA TITLE AMBITIONS TO NEW YORK LIBERTY - Just Womens Sports
- Jonquel Jones on joining the Liberty and embracing a ‘new challenge’ | Liberty News Conference - SNY
- Will Breanna Stewart join Jonquel Jones? (WNBA free agency primer) - Kareem Copeland - Washington Post
- The Jonquel Jones Blockbuster Trade: What Do These Moves Mean? - Brian Martin - WNBA