It’s been a whirlwind offseason all across the WNBA. Teams are gearing up for the new season and have made dramatic, franchise altering moves. The New York Liberty have been at the forefront of free agency as they acquired Kayla Thornton and Jonquel Jones via trade while signing Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot in free agency.
Michaela Onyenwere proved to be a solid rotation player in her two years on the Liberty. She won Rookie of the Year in 2021 and acquitted herself well as the backup power forward in 2022. Mic dealt with a nagging knee injury throughout the season, but toughed it out. She backed up Natasha Howard and was someone Sandy Brondello could count on in crunch time situations. After that great game against the Chicago Sky, I had a chance to talk with her at practice a few days ago and asked her about being a sparkplug off the bench:
“I think that’s been my role, as I’ve been growing in what Sandy [Brondello] wants me to do. I’m just figuring that out where I fit. So just being a spark has always been my goal, and that could be getting 20 minutes. It could be getting 10 minutes or even making the last play, just always staying ready, being that spark. And I think it’s really important. It shows just that everybody’s role is important. You have to be ready regardless of how many minutes you’ve played, and I’m really grateful that she trusted me.”
With all of the changes the Liberty have made this offseason, space was going to be tight. As a result, the Liberty have some difficult decisions to make.
On Saturday afternoon, the Liberty were involved in a four team trade. The big names involved were Marina Mabrey (going from the Dallas Wings to the Chicago Sky) and Diamond DeShields (going from the Phoenix Mercury to the Wings). The Liberty sent Onyenwere to the Mercury and in exchange received the rights to Leonie Fiebich, the Sky’s 2024 second round draft pick, and the right to swap first round picks with the Mercury in 2025. That 2025 pick could prove to be immensely valuable if the Mercury enter a rebuilding phase in the coming years.
Liberty General Manager, Jonathan Kolb, spoke about Onyenwere’s departure, saying:
“Michaela was integral in reinvigorating the Liberty team. Her contributions throughout the early parts of her career have been incredibly impressive. Mic brought unmatched energy and positivity, irrespective of her role, which speaks to her character and selflessness. She has a very bright future, and we wish her the absolute best in Phoenix where she is poised to take on a larger role.”
Onyenwere is a player that has the chance to become even better with more responsibility in Phoenix. It’ll be exciting to see where her game goes from here.
Welcome to Brooklyn
On February 10, the Liberty signed 2022 Draft pick, Sika Koné, to a rookie scale contract. Koné is coming off of an excellent run at the FIBA World Cup, where she led all players in rebounds at 11.8 per game. At 6’3, Koné’s length and athleticism will help her stand out and help her try to earn a spot on this star studded Liberty team. When she was drafted last year, she shared this statement, saying in part:
“This is a dream come true, but in the dream, the draft is just a step. The hard part starts now. This is another step in my young career. It is a joy but also an honor to represent Mali in the WNBA, but also to expand the African family not only in the USA but also by its exposure throughout the entire planet. I feel like I’m jumping from continent to continent, Africa-Europe-America, and that’s fantastic. For me, basketball has no borders.”
Once the news of her signing the contract became official, Sika took to Twitter to share her excitement
So excited for the new challenge https://t.co/TTXVu98icy— sikakone23 (@sikakone23) February 10, 2023
The Liberty roster is incredibly exciting as it is, and having a youngster like Koné could create even more advantages for them.