By Paulina Vairo
The New York Liberty had a disappointing 2020 season in the WNBA bubble, only winning two games — their worst season in franchise history. Just a few games into this season, the team already has more wins this year than all of last year as they are making a name for themselves as possibly early title contenders.
Back in 2019 owner of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center Joseph Tsai bought the Liberty from previous owner James Dolan. Tsai agreed to rebrand the team, changing up the logo and adding black to their main colors. Last year Tsai announced that he will move the team to the Barclays Center, so both the Brooklyn Nets and Liberty can share home courts.
By moving the Liberty to the Barclays, it will help attract more fans to the WNBA. With the Nets clinching the playoffs and finishing second in the Eastern Conference, it will draw more fans to watch the Liberty, especially after their hot start to the season. The players are also excited to be playing in New York City, as they previously played home games at the Westchester County Center.
“It’s an experience where we’re definitely glad to be back in New York, out of the bubble, playing in Barclays, practicing in Barclays, and just being in Brooklyn,” second-year guard Jazmine Jones told Nets Daily. “And then hopefully the season playing in front of our fans and stuff like that, so we can get the full WNBA experience safely.”
Liberty fans also have guard Sabrina Ionescu to be excited about as she plays in her first official full season in the WNBA. Ionescu was the first pick overall in the WNBA draft in 2020 from Oregon. Unfortunately an ankle strain kept her out of the season last year and this year she will be making her rookie debut again.
At Oregon, Ionescu averaged 18 points per game and 44 percent shooting from the field. She led her team to the NCAA tournament each year, and in 2017, during her freshman year, she led the Ducks to their first NCAA Tournament since 2004.
There was a ton of anticipation surrounding Ionescu this season as she is the franchise player for the Liberty. She has been living up to the hype as she had the winning shot during the Liberty’s home opener at the Barclays and became the youngest player in the WNBA to record a triple double in just her sixth career game.
Head coach Walt Hopkins is coaching his second season with the team and has made exceptional moves in the offseason. He brought on a star in Natasha Howard from the Seattle Storm to play with Ionescu and has made great draft picks by choosing Michaela Onyenwere from UCLA and Didi Richards from Baylor.
A three-time WNBA champion with Seattle and Minnesota, Howard has had plenty of success during her time in the WNBA. She was Defensive Player of the Year and an All-Star in 2019 and has an average of 7.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 steals in the last three seasons. The Liberty also signed 2020 Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney to a multiyear contract in free agency, and she kicked off her career in seafoam with six straight 20-point games.
Liberty fan Tina Horvat from Australia is a huge basketball fan and has gotten to know Michaela Onyenwere during the time her daughter attended UCLA. She said she is very excited to see her play for the liberty and support the team overseas.
“We were fortunate enough to have gotten to know Michaela Onyenwere over the last 4 years. We have loved getting to know her and enjoyed watching her play. We would always be cheering with her Mum Edith in the audience and having a laugh. We missed being able to go and support her over the last year due to COVID restrictions in travel. Michaela is an incredible human and an amazing athlete. With Ionescu, Betnijah Laney, and a confident competent team, I can’t wait to get over to the states and get to a game,” Horvat said.
Other Liberty fans have expressed their opinion on their excitement to the start of the season so far with the new rebrand and arena and hope to expect more changes as the season progresses.
“The season has started off well. I love the new design at the court. I also feel we need maybe one more girl that can recount better. and I also think the coach made a lot of good changes and the drafting Didi Richards was the best” said long time Nets and Liberty fan Carley Spies.
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