New York Jets home games ranked by prime time probability

New York Jets fans are set to be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium this fall. Can they expect any primetime games? ESM investigates…

The New York Jets learned of a major offseason acquisition late Monday morning.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on WFAN’s Moose and Maggie program that MetLife Stadium would welcome fans at a 15 percent capacity rate starting March 1. Social distancing will likely be enacted, but Murphy hinted that the percentage could rise as football season approaches.

Jets fans will doubt relish their first opportunity to spell out the team’s name, especially with new head coach Robert Saleh in tow, as well as some potential new faces through both surplus cap space and draft picks.

In celebration of the spectators’ upcoming return, ESM looks ahead on the eight teams set to visit East Rutherford’s green setting this season and ponders their potential primetime posting…

1. Buffalo Bills

The annual Bills-Jets pair used to be Thursday night fodder, a matchup to fill primetime quota for each team. But with the Bills capturing the hearts of many in the Empire State, a rivalry could be brewing for the Jets to keep their territory. Last season, Buffalo earned their first sweep in the series since 2015…a year best known for the time they ended the Jets’ last realistic shot at the postseason.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just when the Jets thought the Tom Brady problem was over, the arguable GOAT returns to a green MetLife Stadium in 2021. The rivalry between Brady and the Jets, who inadvertently gave life to his NFL journey in 2001, has often resembled that of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, with Brady owning a 30-8 record against Gang Green. The quadrennial meeting between Tampa and New York has produced some thrillers in the past. Wayne Chrebet and Curtis Martin silenced Keyshawn Johnson with some game-winning trickery in 2000, while Nick Folk booted a late 48-yarder to win the last MetLife meeting in 2013 (Geno Smith’s first NFL start).

3. New England Patriots

National networks have, for whatever reason, taken a liking to the Jets-Patriots rivalry. Even with the allure of Brady gone, last season’s get-together at MetLife earned the Monday night treatment for the second straight season. The networks could be willing to revisit this matchup with each team chasing Buffalo and potentially featuring a new quarterback matchup.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season, such a meeting between New York and Jacksonville could’ve served as the de facto play-in game for the top spot in this spring’s NFL Draft. But a meeting between the top two picks, potentially a Sugar Bowl rematch between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, could draw the attention of the league’s national TV partners. Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield notably did battle on a Thursday night during their rookie year in 2018 (though Mayfield did not start the game).

5. Miami Dolphins

Miami proved last season that it wasn’t quite ready for primetime, though networks tend to flirt with divisional matchups. An extra layer of intrigue could be added if one of these rivals convinces the stubborn Texans to trade Deshaun Watson.

6. Cincinnati Bengals

If Joe Burrow is ready to go, networks could be attracted to 2020’s top overall draft pick engaging in a battle with 2021’s number two, especially if it’s also a quarterback.

7. Tennessee Titans

There could be some attraction to this matchup due to the Titans’ status as defending AFC South champions could draw some viewers, but without much history between these squads, there’s little national appeal.

8. New Orleans Saints

The same problems that befall the Tennesse tilt could apply with this matchup, and the interconference setting certainly doesn’t help matters.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR makes early adjustments to 2021 schedule

The early portions of NASCAR’s 2021 schedule will have a strong Floridian feel, as the second weekend of the season will remain at Daytona.

For many, Florida in February is but a pipe dream. For NASCAR, it’s a new reality.

The auto racing circuit announced a pair of schedule shifts on Tuesday afternoon. Following the season-opening Daytona 500 for the premier Cup Series on February 14, the series will remain at the iconic Daytona International Speedway to run its second weekend of events at the venue’s road course on February 19-21. Each of the circuit’s trio of national series (Cup, Xfinity, Camping World Truck) will race on the road course for the second straight year. The second event of the season was originally a doubleheader between the Xfinity and Cup Series for Homestead-Miami Speedway, which will now move to the weekend of February 27-28.

Lost from the schedule is the annual trek to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which has annually hosted a Cup Series event since 1997. A NASCAR statement states that moving from Fontana was necessary due to “challenges resulting from the ongoing pandemic and the need for significant advance planning”. The venue was set to host its final events on its traditional two-mile D-shaped oval, before undergoing renovations that turn it into a half-mile short track. These refurbishments have likewise been put on hold. Alex Bowman is the defending winner of the Cup Series’ 400-mile race at the track, while Harrison Burton took the Xfinity portion (300 miles).

NASCAR visited the Daytona road course for the first time in August due to Watkins Glen International’s date being lost due to health protocols in New York State. The course is 3.61 miles in its NASCAR incarnation and each of the national series partook. Daytona’s road course was recently announced to be hosting the Busch Clash exhibition, a season-opening showcase that is open to playoff drivers, race winners, stage winners, and pole sitters from on-track qualifying. The race will be held on Tuesday, February 9, five days before “The Great American Race”.

This shift will only add to a Cup Series-record in races on a road course in 2021, as the season is scheduled to visit seven such venues. In addition to the recurring visits in Daytona, Watkins Glen, Sonoma, and Charlotte, the Cup Series will also visit road courses at Indianapolis, Road America, and the Circuit of the Americas.

Homestead-Miami Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval in Homestead, a 40-minute drive from Magic City. The track hosted NASCAR’s season finales from 2002 through 2019, with that date since shifted to Phoenix. Denny Hamlin is the defending winner at the track, taking home the Dixie Vodka 400 in June.

The news of another road course should be welcomed warmly by defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. He and his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team have won each of the last four races held at such tracks, including the inaugural visit to Daytona (the Go Bowling 325) in August.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

 

Buffalo Bills set to return to Glendale to take on San Francisco

The Buffalo Bills are once again affected by the NFL’s continuing efforts to schedule games in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

The Buffalo Bills are returning to the scene of the crime…robbery, to precise.

Buffalo’s Week 13 contest will take them back to Arizona’s State Farm Stadium in Glendale, as restrictions caused by the ongoing health crisis have forced several adjustments to the NFL schedule. The regular home of the Arizona Cardinals will now serve as a temporary base for the San Francisco 49ers, the Bills’ upcoming opponent on Monday. This interconference matchup will keep its Monday spot, with kickoff still scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC.

San Francisco’s movement from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara was forced by Santa Clara County’s shutdown of contact sports over the next three weeks. Such restrictions have also affected the football and basketball programs. The 49ers will take on Buffalo next Monday before welcoming in the Washington Football Team six days later.

For Buffalo, this means a return to Glendale, the site of the more heartbreaking losses in recent franchise history. The Bills nearly stole a win from the hosting Cardinals on November 15 but were done in by Kyler’s Murray’s 43-yard miracle toss to DeAndre Hopkins that gave the home team a 32-30 victory.

The Bills (8-3) are no strangers to scheduling changes enforced by COVID-19. Their Week 5 matchup against the Tennessee Titans was moved from Sunday to Tuesday after an outbreak in the latter organization. It was the first NFL game played on a Tuesday since December 2010, when the threat of inclement winter weather forced a game between Philadelphia and Minnesota to be moved. Buffalo’s next game, originally scheduled for the ensuing Thursday night in Orchard Park against Kansas City, was likewise adjusted, moved to the following Monday night. The Bills lost both games.

This will mark Buffalo’s first appearance on Monday night since October 2018, when they hosted New England.

Further adjustments to the NFL schedule involved moving games away from certain days. The long-delayed matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens was moved for a third time, as the game originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night was first pushed to Sunday afternoon and later this Tuesday night. But a new shift, announced on Monday, will stage the NFL’s first Wednesday game since 2012 (3:40 p.m. ET, NBC), when the Democratic National Convention forced the season opener between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys to be played a day before its traditional Thursday spot.

As a result of those delays, both Pittsburgh and Baltimore’s Week 13 games have already been moved. The Steelers will now play Washington next Monday at 5 p.m. ET, while the Ravens will play a day later (8:05 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network) in what was originally a Thursday night tilt against the Dallas Cowboys.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills Week 15 game at Denver moved to Saturday night

The Buffalo Bills will play on a Saturday in December for the second straight season, with their visit to Denver being the shifted tilt.

The Buffalo Bills earned another prime time date on Tuesday afternoon, as the NFL announced that the team will be a part of a late-season doubleheader on Saturday, December 19. Buffalo will battle the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High at 4:30 p.m. ET, with the game broadcast nationally on NFL Network, as well as simulcast on local stations in the Buffalo and Denver areas. It will be the first of two Saturday battles, the latter being an 8:15 p.m. ET nightcap between the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

These two matchups were part of the NFL’s original Week 15 slate, part of a group of six that was nominated to play a late Saturday game. The NFL avoids scheduling games on Saturday night due to the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which ruled that the league’s broadcasting practices, which often staged Saturday night games, violated antitrust laws. Such an act more or less outlaws the NFL from staging games on Friday and Saturday during high school and college football seasons respectively, though exceptions are granted later in the year when the college regular season ends. Five more games are likewise up for a Saturday shift on the Week 16 slate, including a matchup between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium.

This marks the second straight season that the Bills have been moved to a Saturday night in the late stages of the season. Last year’s instance decided the AFC East division race, as the Bills battled the New England Patriots in Foxboro. New England took the game 24-17 to capture their 11th straight division title. Buffalo (7-3) may have a chance to flip the script this holiday season, as they currently own a one-game lead on the Miami Dolphins for the division lead.

The resurgence of the Bills has led to an increase in national television appearances. With this shift, the Bills will now play on a national broadcast in four of their final six games, and their Week 17 tilt against Miami could well move to the Sunday night slot if postseason seeding is on the line. Buffalo also has two appearances on ESPN’s Monday Night Football ahead (December 7 at San Francisco and December 28 at New England), their first season with multiple MNF visits since 1997. The Bills are also set to partake in Week 14’s Sunday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 13 at home. It will mark only their third appearance on the premiere national slot since NBC took over the package in 2006 and the peacock network’s first visit to Buffalo since 2007. The Bills’ first nationally televised game, part of NFL Network’s Thursday night package, was moved to a Monday after several other teams endured difficulties with the ongoing health crisis.

Buffalo will next battle the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets, Buffalo Bills games affected by NFL schedule shift

One of the New York Jets’ games against Miami has been moved up to next weekend, as the league makes changes during the health crisis.

The future of the AFC East took a major shift on Sunday, as both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are affected by the NFL’s continuing attempt to navigate its way through the ongoing health crisis. Eight games in total have been affected by positive COVID-19 tests emerging from New England and Tennessee.

As of press time, the Bills’ Week 5 tilt against the Tennessee Titans is scheduled to go on in its Tuesday slot (7 p.m. ET, CBS) after being moved from Sunday. Tennessee revealed on Sunday that they saw another positive test, forcing another shutdown of their Nashville facility. The Titans have now had 24 positive tests in their organization since September 24.

Consequently, the Bills’ Thursday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs has been moved to October 19, the Monday night of Week 6. That game will remain shared between Fox, NFL Network, and streaming service Amazon Prime with kickoff slated for 5 p.m. ET.

These new changes also affect the Jets, who will now face the Miami Dolphins much earlier than anticipated. The first meeting between the divisional rivals moves up to next weekend with a Sunday kickoff on October 18 (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Miami was originally scheduled to take on the Denver Broncos, but the latter’s matchup with the Patriots was instead moved to Week 6 instead. New England and Denver were originally scheduled for Week 5’s Sunday late slot, but they were later moved to Monday. However, Week 5 now serves as de facto Broncos bye week, as they’ll now play the Los Angeles Chargers on their original open date. Miami and Denver’s meeting now moves to Week 11.

Another Jets game affected by the movement is their original Week 6 date with the Chargers. That one now moves to Sunday, November 22, when they originally were set to take on the Dolphins. Jacksonville’s visit to the Chargers in Week 8 has been moved to October 25 during Week 7’s action (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

This story will be updated pending further developments.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR Cup Series unveils revamped 2021 schedule

Road courses ruled the day as NASCAR’s top circuit unveiled its 2021 slate, one that featured new locales and old sites getting a makeover.

The 36-race tally and 500-mile opener at Daytona notwithstanding, the NASCAR Cup Series’ 2021 schedule bears little resemblance to its predecessor.

NASCAR unveiled next year’s slate on Wednesday, featuring three courses making their Cup Series debut and a pair of renowned auto racing landmarks undergoing a special makeover. The five new races are the most added to a Cup Series schedule since 1969.

“(This is a) hugely exciting day for NASCAR, really everyone involved in the industry,” NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said after the release. “We said back early in 2019 that we wanted to evolve the schedule. 2020 was going to be a year where we could make some moves within the portfolio of races we had. Really, (in) 2021 and beyond you’re going to see some really bold changes from NASCAR.”

NASCAR has sought to create new innovations in racing as they enter this new decade. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed some changes, but the sport was nonetheless the first major North American sport to return to full-time competition in the midst of the ongoing health crisis. In addition to this new schedule, further innovations await, including a new racecar template, known as the “Next Gen” car, that will debut during the 2022 season.

When it comes to the schedule, O’Donnell hinted that the changes may have only just begun. 

“The primary goal for us was to continue to evolve the schedule, to continue to build it, to continue to listen to the fans,” he said. “2021, we believe, is a really bold step in that direction, but we’re not done.  There’s 2022 and beyond where we’ll continue to look at making changes that we believe are in the best interest of the sport in key markets and key iconic racetracks as well.  We’re going to continue the journey.”

The following tracks/formats will be making their debut next season…

Bristol Dirt (March 28)

Many NASCAR drivers have gotten their start on local dirt tracks. Next spring, NASCAR will cover the iconic asphalt at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first dirt track race at the Cup Series level since a visit to the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in 1970. Previously, the lower-tier Truck Series would make an annual dirt visit to Eldora Speedway, with current Cup competitors Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, and Christopher Bell each earning a win in the Eldora Dirt Derby. This year’s race was called off due to the pandemic.

Circuit of the Americas (May 23)

This 3.426-mile road course in Austin, Texas has previously hosted numerous forms of auto racing, including Formula One and IndyCar. Having hosted the former’s United States Grand Prix event since 2012, COTA is the first American venue to be specifically built for F1 racing.

Nashville Superspeedway (June 20)

Originally opening in 2001, financial woes caused Nashville to close ten years later. However, the track will reopen by hosting the 2021 Father’s Day event, its first NASCAR-sanctioned event since its shutdown. Though the Cup Series descends upon the track for the first time, previous winners at the 1.333-mile oval through Xfinity and Truck endeavors include Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano. The Nashville date takes one of two race from Dover International Speedway.

Road America (July 4)

Perhaps nothing could define Independence Day better than a NASCAR race at a track called Road America, located in Plymouth, Wisconsin. This 4.048-mile road course has hosted the Xfinity Series since 2010, its most recent win going to Team Penske’s Austin Cindric in August.

Indianapolis Road Course (August 15)

The Cup Series will make a change to its annual visit to the Brickyard, eschewing the 2.5-mile rectangular oval for the 2.44-mile road course. Earlier this season, the Xfinity Series made the change early, going with a 62-lap event won by Chase Briscoe.

Other changes and notes relate to more familiar locales…

  • As is tradition, the season will open with the running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (February 14). However, the exhibition race known as the Busch Clash, traditionally held a week before the main event, will now be run on Daytona’s road course, which hosted its first Cup Series race in August (won by Chase Elliott).

 

  • After Daytona, the series will remain in the Sunshine State, with the second race shifting to Homestead-Miami Speedway (February 21). Homestead previously hosted the season final for nearly two decades (2002-19) before being moved up to March, though the Dixie Vodka 400 was run in June due to the pause.

 

  • Incumbent tracks Chicagoland and Kentucky were left off the schedule. Chicagoland had hosted races since 2001, while Kentucky was the most recent venue to join the Cup Series schedule in 2011.

  • Darlington Raceway has been scheduled to host multiple events for the first time since 2004. Commonly known as “The Track Too Tough to Tame”, Darlington hosted three events this season, the first two being rescheduled races and the first to be run in the return from the pause. The first race will come on May 15, while the Southern 500 retains its status as the opener to the Cup Series Playoffs (September 5).

 

  • Atlanta Motor Speedway likewise returns to two-date status, its two races scheduled to be run on March 21 and July 11. AMS had not hosted two events in a single season since 2010.

  • Texas Motor Speedway will host its first NASCAR All-Star Race on June 13. The All-Star exhibition shifted to Bristol this season after over three decades at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Texas did lose one of its points races, but retained its playoff date (October 17). The All-Star will also serve as the season finale for Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage before transitioning to the networks of NBC.

 

  • Save for flipping Kansas and Texas’ spots in the Round of 8, no changes were made to the NASCAR Playoff schedule. The season will end at Phoenix Raceway for the second straight season (November 7).

 

  • The Cup Series will have two weeks between New Hampshire (July 18) and Watkins Glen (August 8) to account for the rescheduled 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season continues on Sunday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway for the YellaWood 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR posts remainder of 2020 national series schedule

NASCAR revealed the remainder of their 2020 national series slate on Thursday, covering the entirety of their postseason slate.

Defying Jim Mora, NASCAR is talking about playoffs.

The auto racing body unveiled the remainder of their 2020 schedule for each of their national series, which includes the playoff slates for each. Playoffs in the premier Cup Series will begin on September 6 at Darington Raceway’s Southern 500.

While the ongoing national developments have necessitated some changes in other portions of the schedule, the Cup playoff slate remains fully in-tact. Phoenix Raceway is still set to host its first season finale on November 8, taking over the championship weekend tradition from Homestead-Miami Speedway after 17 seasons. Bristol Motor Speedway will host its first playoff race in a September 19 night event as the final stage of the first round.

Remaining schedules for the lower-tier series were also released. The NASCAR Xfinity Series will host one last doubleheader on September 11-12 at Richmond Raceway, one week before their regular-season finale at Bristol. Xfinity drivers will also take to Talladega Superspeedway for the second part of their own first round on October 3.

The most shuffling comes on the Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series slate, as they earn playoff races at Kansas (October 16) and Texas (October 25). Richmond will play host to the regular season finale on August 18 while the Truck playoffs open at Bristol on September 17.

“The one fortunate part of this latter part of the season and the playoffs is we were able to keep the original tracks and dates intact when it came to the Cup Series, but definitely they have had to be flexible with integrating some of the other series into those events so that they had a good championship schedule as well,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition in a statement on NASCAR.com. “It has been again, just like everything else, just a lot of great teamwork between the teams, NASCAR, and the venues.”

The ARCA Menards Series also posted its remaining races, including a finale at Phoenix preceding the Xfinity Series championship on November 7.

All three major national series will be in action this weekend, as their regular seasons enter their final stages. The Cup Series will have a doubleheader at Michigan International Seedway beginning on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN) while the Xfinity Series races on the Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin earlier that afternoon (12 p.m. ET, NBCSN). The Trucks will race in a Friday night event at Michigan on Friday night (6 p.m. ET, FS1).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

Rutgers Scarlet Knights unveil 2020 football schedule

As they prepare to potentially navigate around the ongoing health crisis, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team unveiled their 2020 slate.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights unveiled their 2020 football schedule on Wednesday, headlined by their opener against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at SHI Stadium on September 5.

Each of Rutgers’ 10 scheduled contests will come against conference opponents, as the Big Ten opted to eliminate non-conference games while preparing for a season during the ongoing health crisis. Rutgers was originally set to open with FCS Monmouth in Piscataway and also had matchups with Syracuse and Temple wiped out.

Nebraska, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, and Illinois will each visit Piscataway this season. These games with be played without outside spectators, per an official order from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy that also affects New York Jets and Giants NFL games at MetLife Stadium. Rutgers will travel to Ohio State, Maryland, Purdue, Michigan State, and Wisconsin as well.

The schedule release coincides with the Big Ten releasing its health and medical protocols for a potential 2020 campaign. Rutgers has been dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 on their football team, as a report from Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media revealed that 28 players, plus three members of the coaching staff, have tested positive. Michigan State, Ohio State, and Northwestern have also dealt with positive cases and have since shut down practices. Outside of the conference, the University of Connecticut became the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to outright cancel its 2020 proceedings.

High contact risk sports in the Big Ten will test a minimum of twice daily. The full guidelines are available on the conference’s official website.

“The Conference acknowledges that there is much work to be done on our campuses, in our communities and across the country to gain control of a virus that continues to spread at an alarming rate,” The Big Ten said in a Wednesday statement. “While the Conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, including football, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur.”

“While our strategy is to continue planning for all fall sports, if the virus continues to spread among our students despite our many preventative measures, including testing and quarantine protocols, we are also prepared to delay or cancel competition pursuant to local and state public health orders or the recommendations of our medical experts.”

Rutgers is seeking a reversal in fortune after extending their postseason drought to a fifth season last year with a 2-10 mark that cost head coach Chris Ash his job after four games. The Scarlet Knights welcomed back Greg Schiano to the head coaching spot as the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers boss returns to Piscataway for the first time since 2011. Schiano oversaw the most recent glory days in Rutgers history, guiding them to a program-best 11 wins and their first-ever postseason victory (the Texas Bowl over Kansas State). Rutgers would go on to win five bowl games over the next six season after that historic 2006 campaign before Schiano began his NFL endeavor.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty to open 2020 WNBA proceedings (Full Schedule)

The New York Liberty’s opening matchup with the Seattle Storm will officially open WNBA proceedings in the Bradenton bubble.

The New York Liberty will help officially christen the WNBA bubble setup in Bradenton, Florida…affectionately referred to as the “Wubble” by participants and media…on July 25. New York’s 2020 debut will officially open the 2020 season, the WNBA’s 24th year of operation, as they take on the Seattle Storm.

Each of the league’s dozen squads is currently headquartered at IMG Academy preparing for a 22-game season. Games will take place on two courts set up at Feld Entertainment Center in nearby Palmetto. The Liberty’s tilt with Seattle will tip-off at noon Eastern Time and be televised nationally on ESPN. It is part of a WNBA tripleheader to open the season, with a Western Conference title between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury following at 3 p.m. ET on ABC. Opening day proceedings wrap up with the defending champion Washington Mystics taking on the Indiana Fever two hours later.

The premiere showdown against Seattle will serve as the professional debut for Sabrina Ionescu, New York’s top overall pick of April’s WNBA Draft. Ionescu is one of six rookies on the Liberty roster, which also welcomes back All-Star Kia Nurse. Ionescu’s debut coincides with the return of Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird for Seattle. The pair were key factors behind the Storm’s 2018 WNBA Finals run, which saw Stewart earn seasonal MVP honors and Bird don her third championship ring. They both missed all of last season with injuries, their ailments relegating Seattle to a sixth-place finish in the standings. The Storm would top Minnesota in the playoff quarterfinals before falling to Los Angeles.

Other key dates for the Liberty include…

July 29 (Dallas)-The youngest teams in the WNBA will square off over 3,000 miles from the University of Oregon, the alma mater of Ionescu and Satou Sabally. Dallas’ top pick heard her name called minutes after her fellow former Duck as the second overall choice last spring.

August 5 (Minnesota)-The first of two matchups with the Lynx will be a nostalgic time for each team’s respective bench. Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins spent the past three seasons as a Minnesota assistant (winning the 2017 WNBA Finals). His seat has since been occupied by Naismith Hall-of-Famer Katie Smith, who spent the last seven years in the Liberty organization, the last two as head coach.

August 7 (Washington)-Traded to the Mystics this offseason, it remains to be seen if Tina Charles, the Liberty’s all-time leading scorer, as she awaits medical clearance to partake in Floridian proceedings. It will nonetheless be the first of two meetings with the defending WNBA champions.

August 20 (Chicago)-Another Oregon reunion awaits Ionescu, as the Sky chose Ruthy Hebard with the seventh overall pick in April.

August 29 (Las Vegas)-In addition to another get-together with former head coach Bill Laimbeer (who has gone 5-1 against New York since taking the Aces’ job in 2018), this game has added meaning as the WNBA’s network debut on CBS.

All put six games on the Liberty’s current schedule have earned a national window on the networks of ESPN and CBS. An updated schedule on the team’s YES Network flagship television station will be released at a later date.

Check out the full Liberty schedule below…

Date Opponent Time (ET) TV
July 25 Seattle 12 p.m. ESPN
July 29 Dallas 8 p.m. CBSSN
July 31 Atlanta 7 p.m. TBD
August 2 Phoenix 1 p.m. ESPN
August 5 Minnesota 7 p.m. CBSSN
August 7 Washington 7 p.m. ESPN2
August 9 Las Vegas 3 p.m. ESPN
August 11 Los Angeles 9 p.m. ESPN2
August 13 Indiana 6 p.m. TBD
August 15 Minnesota 6 p.m. CBSSN
August 18 Seattle 10 p.m. TBD
August 20 Chicago 7 p.m. CBSSN
August 22 Connecticut 4 p.m. CBSSN
August 25 Chicago 7 p.m. CBSSN
August 27 Dallas 8 p.m. CBSSN
August 29 Las Vegas 4 p.m. CBS
September 1 Connecticut 7 p.m. CBSSN
September 3 Atlanta 7 p.m. TBD
September 5 Phoenix 8 p.m. TBD
September 8 Los Angeles 7 p.m. CBSSN
September 10 Indiana 7 p.m. CBSSN
September 12 Washington 4 p.m. TBD

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags