After a long wait, we’re finally here! After an Earth-shattering offseason, the New York Liberty are back and better than ever. The Liberty come into this season hoping to build a championship. With the upgraded roster and excitement through the roof, it’s going to be an exciting journey for the Liberty and we’ve got you covered every step of the way.
The opponent tonight will be the Washington Mystics. Flanked by a new head coach, the Mystics are hoping to crash the party and go on a deep playoff run in 2023. Washington brings most of last year’s roster back. As every Nets fan knows, that matters.
Where to follow the game
MY9 and YES Network app for the locals, NBATV for the rest of y’all. The party gets started at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Courtney Vandersloot has been in concussion protocols, but has been practicing with the team this week. She’s good to go. Same with Jonquel Jones as she recovers from a fracture she suffered last season. Nyara Sabally was sidelined with an injury during Wednesday’s practice and will miss this contest. Epiphany Prince will likely be signed as a hardship contract to cover for Sabally’s absence.
Myisha Hines Allen is out with a left knee injury.
But first, a special note...
Brittney Griner’s back! BG will be making her return to the game of basketball later tonight on ESPN as the Phoenix Mercury take on the Los Angeles Sparks in LA. It’s a welcome sight to see Griner back in the WNBA and we can’t wait to see her in action.
Back in DC, we’ll be watching a fun guard matchup. The Mystics might have the best defensive backcourt in the W. Natasha Cloud and Brittney Sykes figure to wreak havoc on opposing guards. In 2022, Cloud was All-Defensive first team while Sykes was second team. They’ll have their hands full with the new duo of Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot. Sloot will run the point while Ionescu will start off the ball. Ionescu had a terrific, All WNBA season in ‘22 and will look to climb even higher heights this season. Vandersloot was in concussion protocol throughout training camp, so it’ll be interesting to see how many minutes she plays tonight. Ionescu has impressed throughout camp, which is something Sandy Brondello mentioned when we spoke to her at a coach’s media availability on Tuesday:
Brondello on Ionescu's offseason: "She worked on her first step, speed. Increasing the range and speed of her shot. You know Sabrina, she's always working, always in the gym. I think she looks quicker out there, and came with some pop in her step being healthy." (Q: @ClassicJpow)— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) May 16, 2023
Sandy Brondello says Ionescu impressed her in camp: "[Sabrina] came in really healthy. She got quicker, her shot got quicker. She's playing with a lot of confidence, but her leadership has improved, too. Those are the areas we asked her to work on, so it's good." (Q: @busyxb)— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) May 16, 2023
It’s been a banner offseason for Ionescu and 2023 promises to be her best season yet.
Rebounding was a bug-a-boo for the Liberty last season, but they’ve got a lot more size to work with this time around. That starts with Jonquel Jones at center. JJ can do everything on the court and can draw Shakira Austin and old friend Amanda Zahui B away from the rim on offense. Austin didn’t play in preseason as she just returned from playing in Israel and won gold in Australia at the FIBA World Cup, so she’s in line for a huge season.
For Jones, she got some run in the last preseason game against the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday, so we’ll see what her minutes distribution looks like. The Liberty have a ton of frontcourt depth, and we’ll get to see Stef Dolson and Han Xu work tonight. Han has stood out in training camp and Brondello has mentioned she’s been deploying her in new and exciting ways. The great thing about having so many good options is you can give everyone run and avoid burning players out.
We’ll meet another new Liberty player tonight as well. Kayla Thornton figures to be the first player off the bench and she can guard up to four (and sometimes all five) positions on the court. Thornton brings a toughness and grit to the Liberty program and fits perfectly on this roster. The duo of KT and Betnijah Laney give the Liberty more options to defend elite perimeter players while also making big plays on offense. Laney might be considering the fourth option on offense, which only speaks to how outstanding this Liberty team promises to be. Whew.
And of course, Breanna Stewart will be leading the charge for the new look Liberty. You may as well just call her All-Everything. At 28 years old, the North Syracuse native has a resume’ that might remind you of Kevin Durant’s. She’s won two WNBA titles, been MVP of the Finals twice, the W’s MVP once. She’s been All-WNBA five times, an All-Star four times,All-Defensive four times, Rookie of the Year and four-time NCAA champ at UConn. The 6’4” Stewart also was the WNBA scoring leader last season, averaging 21.9 points a game.
When we last saw Stewie in a game that counted in the WNBA, she was going shot-for-shot against the Aces in the 2022 playoffs.
Stewart shook the league up when she joined the Liberty and will present a myriad of matchup trouble for opponents. Stewart got some burn in the preseason finale. She played in Turkey during the offseason (where she and Vandersloot won the Euroleague title last month with Fenerbahce.) Similar to Jones and Vandersloot, we’ll see how her minutes are managed tonight.
Player to watch: Elena Delle Donne
If the Mystics are going to crash the Liberty and Aces party, EDD will be leading the way. Delle Donne played at an All-Star level in her return from injury last season. In 25 games, Delle Donne averaged around 17 points and six rebounds on 48/.37/91 shooting splits in close to 28 minutes a night. She’s back at full strength and doesn’t plan to miss any games this season. Delle Donne is a special, special talent that can do damage every time the ball is in her hands
From the Vault
On Saturday, HBO will premiere Love to Love You, Donna Summer. Summer is one of the greatest, most influential artists of all time so it’s only right we pull up one of her all time best records.
More reading: Swish Appeal, Bullets Forever, The Local W, Just Women’s Sports, Baseline Sports NY, SI All Knicks, Winsidr, Her Hoop Stats and The Next
- Super teams in Las Vegas, New York and Brittney Griner’s return headline upcoming WNBA season - Doug Feinberg - AP
- The Liberty Took a Few Jets and a Boat to Become a Superteam - Kurt Streeter - New York Times
- How the New York Liberty built a WNBA superteam in just one offseason - Alexa Philippou - , ESPN
- Breanna Stewart talks life, her career and Liberty’s high expectations - Steve Serby - New York Post
- How New York Liberty stack up against rest of WNBA this season - Jonathan Lehman - New York Post
- Liberty’s superteam has championship expectations heading into season - Brian Heyman - Newsday
- 2023 Season Preview: Liberty set to shatter win record in chase for franchise’s 1st WNBA title - Filfi Frimpong - New York Daily News
- New York Liberty, Las Vegas Aces gain WNBA buzz before season openers - Sabreena Merchant & Ben Pickman - The Athletic
- Superteam era: The good and the bad in the WNBA’s 27th year - Just Women’s Sports
- 2023 WNBA season preview: New York Liberty - Jackie Powell - The NEXT