WNBA: New York Liberty unveil 2021 season schedule

Jazmine Jones, New York Liberty

Just over a month remains before the New York Liberty make their full-time Brooklyn debut, as they’ll battle the Indiana Fever.

The New York Liberty received their schedule for the 2021 WNBA season, which will begin with four games on May 14. New York will battle the Indiana Fever in a Friday night showdown, tipping off at 7 p.m. ET. TV information will be released at a latter date.

This season marks the Liberty’s first campaign as full-time tenants at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which they share with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. It also marks the 25th anniversary for the Liberty, one of the three charter franchises remaining in the league that likewise celebrates its silver season (the others being the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury).

After a tough two-win season in the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble, the Liberty made several offseason moves that have positioned them as one of the more intriguing teams in the Association. A trade involving the top overall pick in Thursday’s WNBA Draft (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) saw them net former WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb, additions that followed the signing of former Rutgers star and reigning Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney. New York will also welcome back several rookie-turned-sophomores from their Floridian endeavor, including 2020’s top overall choice Sabrina Ionescu and WNBA All-Rookie team nominee Jazmine Jones.

The 2021 WNBA regular season will run through Sunday, September 19. A break for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will commence on July 15 and run through August 11. Each of the league’s dozen teams will play 32 games and partake in the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season tournament that will conclude with a championship game immediately after the Olympic pause, setting up the final push to the playoffs. Further details about the Commissioner’s Cup and a planned 2021 All-Star Game will be released at a further date.

Among the notable matchups on the Liberty ledger…

  • The Liberty will open their season with a home-and-home series against the Indiana Fever. New York undoubtedly will be seeking revenge for the 2019 opener, when Teaira McCowan’s buzzer-beater allowed the Fever to escape Westchester Counter Center with an 81-80 triumph. The teams will then meet at Bankers Life Field house for a 2 p.m. matinee matchup two days later.

 

  • Youth in revolt will be on full display on May 25, as the Liberty welcome the Dallas Wings to Brooklyn for a battle between the league’s two youngest squads. It will likely feature the first matchup between Oregon standouts Ionescu and Satou Sabally, a get-together delayed by Ionescu’s injury sustained in the early stages of last season.

 

  • The Liberty’s visit to Los Angeles is the only game scheduled for June 20 and it will likely pay tribute to the 25th anniversary of the WNBA’s first game, a 67-57 New York triumph at the Great Western Forum. It will also mark the Liberty’s first meeting with former fan favorite Amanda Zahui B, who signed with the Sparks after five metropolitan seasons.

 

  • Howard and Whitcomb will have to wait to weather the Storm, as the defending champions will visit Brooklyn for a two-part series on August 18 and 20.

 

  • In another happy return, Kia Nurse will return to New York on August 25 in the new colors of the Phoenix Mercury. Nurse, a first-round pick and All-Star in seafoam, was part of the three-team deal that sent Howard and Whitcomb out east.

 

  • The Liberty will conclude the 2021 regular season with a four-game road trip through Minnesota, Seattle, Dallas, and Connecticut before returning home to Brooklyn for their finale on September 17.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty sign 2020 Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney

The newest member of the New York Liberty enjoyed a breakout season in Atlanta and also appeared on the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team.

Betnijah Laney is used to putting on a show on tri-state area hardwood as a Rutgers alumna. She’s about to do so on a professional level.

The New York Liberty announced on Tuesday that the team has brought in Laney as a free agent signing. Laney is the defending winner of the league’s Most Improved Player Award as a member of the Atlanta Dream.

“We are beyond excited to welcome Betnijah to the New York Liberty,” said Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said in a team statement. “As a player, Betnijah represents everything it takes to wear the seafoam and black, from her resilience, to her dedication, to her never quit attitude. As a person, she is someone New Yorkers will fully embrace as she is as committed to making an impact in the community as she is on court.”

Laney, 27, will appear on her fifth WNBA team after entering the league as a second-round pick of the Chicago Sky in 2015. She previously spent four years at Rutgers under the watch of legendary head coach C. Vivian Stringer in Piscataway. Laney was on the team’s 2014 squad that won the WNIT and later set a Rutgers Athletic Center single-game record with 24 rebounds in a tilt against North Carolina later that year. The previous holder was original Liberty representative Sue Wicks, who carried the mark since 1987.

After prior stints with Chicago, Connecticut, and Indiana, Laney enjoyed a breakout season with the Dream in the Bradenton bubble. She smashed her career-bests with averages of 17.2 points and 4.9 rebounds. Laney made a huge statement during Atlanta’s 84-78 win over the Liberty on July 31, reaching 30 points for the first time in her career. She would top that mark less than a month later in an August loss to Washington.

For her efforts, Laney was awarded the 2020 Most Improved Player Award, previously bestowed to her fellow Piscataway alumna Kia Vaughn, who won it with the Liberty in 2011. Laney was also named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team alongside Atlanta teammate Elizabeth Williams.

In other Liberty roster news, Rachel Galligan has reported that Joyner Holmes has been re-added on a training camp deal. The rookie put up 2.9 points and 2.7 rebounds over 19 games after being signed from Seattle prior to the bubble’s inflation.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags