New York Liberty’s Han Xu speaks out against anti-Asian racism

Han, a New York Liberty fan favorite and native of Hebei, spoke out against attacks against Asian-Americans.

Han Xu of the New York Liberty took to Instagram to address anti-Asian racism in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

A native of the province of Heibei, Han posted a prior statement from the Liberty that condemned an influx of attacks on Asian-Americans in New York City. Hundreds appeared in Lower Manhattan on Saturday to protest for justice when a 36-year-old Asian man was stabbed in Foley’s Square. A 23-year-old man turned himself into the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office three hours later.

“It is frightening and upsetting to see the rising hate crimes and attacks against the Asian American community and in particular in New York, a community I love,” Han wrote in her accompanying caption. “We all need to show solidarity for those being targeted and take action to stop this horrific violence. Please be kind to one another.”

The Liberty released their statement on February 19, which included contact information to both activist groups and law enforcement agencies to report and csuch xenophobic crimes.

While hate crimes and discriminatory behavior against Asian Americans have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, sadly, they are not new,” the Liberty statement reads. “Regardless of the cause of these heinous acts, the New York Liberty organization stands vehemently against racism, xenophobia, hatred, and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We will not ignore this issue and will continue to use our platform in the fight for justice and equality for all people.”

Han’s statement comes in the wake of statements from former Knicks and Nets guard Jeremy Lin, an NBA veteran of Chinese descent. Lin, currently competing with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA G League, recently reported that he has faced racist taunts on the court, with unnamed opponents referring to him as “coronavirus”. The NBA is investigating the situation.

Han, 21, joined the Liberty as the 14th overall pick of the 2019 draft. She and Shao Ting were the first Chinese-born players to partake in WNBA regular season action since Chen Nan in 2009. Han was also the second Chinese-born pick in draft history and the first since Zheng Haixia of Los Angeles in 1997.

In her first season, Han put up averages of 7.9 minutes and 3.0 points. She became a fan favorite during her rookie campaign, drawing loud cheers when she entered games at Westchester County Center. Han’s propensity to shoot from three-point range drew the loudest applause, as she sank

Han notably came up big during the Liberty’s first unofficial game at Barclays Center, scoring 19 points in a come-from-behind victory in an exhibition against the Chinese national team. She did not partake in the WNBA’s bubble in Bradenton but has remained active through local league and national team endeavors. Notably, she appeared alongside Ting and New York teammate Rebecca Allen on the all-tournament team at the end of the 2019 Asia Cup in Bangalore, where Han took part in a silver medal effort, China’s best finish since 2015.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Amanda Zahui B gives thanks and farewell

Amanda Zahui B, one of the longest-tenured members of the New York Liberty, is moving to the Los Angeles Sparks.

Another Swedish athlete who took over Madison Square Garden’s staging area is moving on.

New York Liberty veteran Amanda Zahui B has announced her metropolitan departure, as the WNBA veteran will join the Los Angeles Sparks. Zahui B, a Stockholm native, was the longest-tenured member of the team alongside fellow international import Rebecca Allen. She originally joined the Liberty via a trade with the Tulsa Shock five years ago. The Minnesota alumna entered the Association as the second overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft, chosen by the Shock, who now go by the Dallas Wings moniker.

Over five seasons in seafoam, Zahui B made her prescience felt on and off the court. She played a particularly large role in the Liberty’s 2020 endeavors in the Bradenton bubble, serving as a “baby vet” on a team laden with rookies. Zahui B averaged 9.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in her final Liberty season, partaking in all but one of the 22 games. Among her most cherished New York memories was a 37-point showing during a June 2019 win in Los Angels (the second-best single-game output in Liberty history) and hauling in a WNBA-record 21 defensive rebounds last August against Dallas, breaking a record held by Detroit’s Cindy Brown for over two decades. Along the way, Zahui B endeared herself to her Liberty teammates, developing strong friends with players like Allen and Han Xu.

After her departure was made official, Zahui B took to Instagram to pen a heartfelt farewell and thanks to her New York compatriots. Among the photos included in the post included her team gathered at midcourt at MSG, a Floridan pose with rookie Jazmine Jones, Sabrina Ionescu, Kylee Shook, and Leaonna Odom, and her participation in the 2018 NYC Pride March.

“I came to New York very confused, shattered in many ways, and really kind of lost. Lost in God’s plans. I had no clue that NY would become home,” Zahui B’s caption partially reads. “I grew so much as a player and even more as a person.”

“Finding my confidence would not have been possible without each and every single one of my teammates through my NY years,” she continued. “I don’t even know how I would’ve made it without y’all crazy asses! From our Turn-up crews to standing up against injustice, police brutality, racism, and for all kind of humans. No matter where or how, y’all will always be in my heart and we shall continue to make a change together.” [sic]

Zahui B’s New York teammates wished her well, including current Liberty reps Allen, Stokes, and Asia Durr.

Despite the loss of Zahui B, the Liberty have remained active in the transaction front, welcoming in 2020’s Most Improved Player champion Betnijah Laney from Atlanta, as well as Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb from Seattle through a three-team trade that also involved the Phoenix Mercury.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Three-time champion Natasha Howard headed to New York Liberty

Former Seattle All-Star Natasha Howard is coming to the New York Liberty in exchange for the top overall pick.

Following the signing of Betnijah Laney, New York Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb played coy when asked if the team was finished making moves. He gave a more concrete answer on Wednesday afternoon.

The Liberty announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have acquired Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb from the Seattle Storm in a three-team deal. Howard is a three-time WNBA champion and the 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.

“We have the privilege of welcoming multiple-time WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb to Brooklyn,” Kolb said in a team statement. “The magnitude of Natasha choosing to be in New York cannot be overstated. She is an All-WNBA talent who has worked for and earned everything that she has achieved, who has contributed to championship runs on multiple teams, and who will fit seamlessly into Walt Hopkins’ system.”

New York bids farewell to the top pick in April’s draft, which went to Seattle, as well as former All-Star Kia Nurse and 2020 first-round pick Megan Walker, who were each dealt to the Phoenix Mercury. The Liberty also sent over a 2022 first-round choice (acquired from Phoenix) to Seattle. They get back the sixth overall pick in 2021 from the Mercury, who also get the rights to Stephanie Talbot from New York. Talbot opted out of the 2020 season after coming over in a draft day trade with Minnesota.

Howard, 29, played a major role in three of the last four WNBA championships with the Storm, who took home the most recent title from the Bradenton bubble last fall. She also captured the 2017 championship with the Minnesota Lynx, working alongside then-Minnesota assistant Walt Hopkins, now the head coach of the Liberty.

After winning the Most Improved Player Award in 2018, Howard earned All-WNBA First Team honors in the following year and also picked up the Defensive Player of the Year title. She has averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in her WNBA career, which began as the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft with Indiana.

“I am very excited to be a part of the New York Liberty organization,” said Howard in a statement. “I’m also excited to meet my new teammates and the fans. I’m so pumped about the 2021 season.”

Howard was previously cored by the Storm, giving the team exclusive free agency rights, but now heads to New York as part of a sign-and-trade.

Also joining the Liberty is sharpshooter Sami Whitcomb. At 32, she is now the oldest member on the Liberty roster. Whitcomb has earned numerous accolades in Australia’s WNBL and was part of the Storm’s last two championship treks. Though born in California, Whitcomb holds Australian citizenship and has earned numerous accolades at the WNBL level. She led Seattle reserves with 8.1 points per game off the bench last season and sank all 22 of her free throw attempts.

“Sami Whitcomb will be an instant fan favorite, not only for her elite shot-making ability, but also for her tenacity and drive,” Kolb said. “A two-time champion in her own right, Sami knows what it takes to win in this league, and is exactly the kind of tough, talented, culture-first player we covet in New York.”

In the process, the Liberty will part ways with Nurse and Walker, each of whom partook in the Liberty’s 22-game endeavor in Florida last year. Nurse was one of the so-called “baby vets” on a New York squad that dressed seven rookies last season, alongside Amanda Zahui B. and Kiah Stokes. Nurse tallied 11.6 points per game last season after appearing in her first All-Star game in 2019. One of the aforementioned rookies was Walker, a fellow University of Connecticut alumna who was chosen ninth in last year’s draft. After missing the first four games due to a positive test for COVID-19, Walker partook in 18 games in the bubble, averaging 3.3 points.

“I would like to thank Kia Nurse and Megan Walker for their contributions to our organization,” added Kolb. “The unfortunate part of transactions such as these is that you have to say goodbye to people who have contributed to the team in so many ways. Kia shone particularly brightly in New York, becoming an All-Star in just her second season in the league. Megan’s rookie season was undoubtedly stunted by a preseason COVID diagnosis, but I have no doubt that she will return to top form in the coming years, and that both players will continue to flourish in Phoenix.”

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

New York Liberty: Layshia Clarendon undergoes top surgery

The WNBA veteran has received support from both the league and New York Liberty teammates after their social media announcement.

New York Liberty guard Layshia Clarendon announced on Friday that they underwent top surgery to remove breast tissue earlier this month. Clarendon made their announcement on social media. The Cal-Berkeley graduate wrapped their first season with the Liberty after signing with the team last offseason.

“It’s hard to put into words the feeling of seeing my chest for the first time free of breasts, seeing my chest the way I’ve always seen it, and feeling a sense of gender euphoria as opposed to gender ⁣dysphoria,” Clarendon said in their Instagram post. I’m usually not scared to share news publicly but the amount of hate, myths & ignorance surrounding Trans and Non-Binary people’s existence actually had me debating sharing this joy. I want Trans people to know and see that we’ve always existed & no one can erase us!”

Clarendon’s announcement has received droves of support in the wake of their announcement, including statements from both the Liberty and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, as well as from teammates like Amanda Zahui B.

“Layshia’s story is one of inspiration and courage, and as a takeaway from the emotional conversation we shared recently, my hope is that the WNBA’s full support will extend far beyond this league,” Engelbert said on her Instagram story. “We are so proud that Layshia is part of the WNBA and we know that their voice and continued advocacy will not only support and help honor and uplift many other nonbinary and trans people, but also encourage empathy and understanding for the community across all levels of sport.”

“The New York Liberty family is in full support of Layshia Clarendon and their choice to live authentically. The Liberty has been and will continue to be an organization that celebrates the individuality of all people. Layshia is a proud embodiment of our belief that our strength lies in our truth and no one should live constrained by societal boundaries. Layshia’s journey as a pioneering athlete, along with their activism and advocacy work, is an inspiring call for each of us to honor our humanity above all else.”

Clarendon entered the league as a first-round pick of the Indiana Fever has been at the forefront of the WNBA’s off-the-court endeavors, serving on the WNBA’s Social Justice Council and the vice president of the league’s players association. They earned a career-best 11.5 points per game in the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble last season.

The Liberty, along with the rest of the WNBA, will be permitted to formally sign free agents on February 1.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Asia Durr tells her COVID story on HBO’s Real Sports

The New York Liberty’s first-round choice from the 2019 draft spoke about her bout with COVID-19 and her experience as a “long hauler”.

New York Liberty guard Asia Durr appeared on Tuesday night’s season premiere of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel to discuss her bout with the novel coronavirus, one that has carried on far beyond her recovery. Durr, the second overall pick of the 2019 WNBA Draft, opted out of the Liberty’s 2020 efforts in the Bradenton bubble due to her diagnosis.

Speaking with Real Sports correspondent Mary Carillo, Durr was showcased as one of several athletes who are still feeling the aftershocks of their battle with COVID-19. Such patients experience damage caused by the disease for months after their diagnosis. Symptoms of long-haulers include fatigue and shortness of breath, and spiked heart rate. According to Baltimore-based pulmonologist Dr. Emily P. Brigham, MD, who is also interviewed in Carillo’s piece, the condition is more present in women, including athletes.

Carillo presents Durr’s story as a “cautionary tale” in the story of long-haulers. Speaking through a video conference, Durr admits that a good day consists of going to the store or cleaning her home, a stark contrast to the heavy workload demanded from a professional athlete. Other days, she can’t get out of bed, an experience she compares to “get(ting) hit by a bus”.

“My life has completely changed since June 8,” Durr told Carillo, referring to the date of her initial diagnosis. “I was back-and-forth, seeing doctors, hospitals…I couldn’t breathe, I was spitting up blood…lung pain that was so severe, it felt like somebody took a long knife and was just stabbing you in your lungs each second. I woke up, 2:00 in the morning, vomiting, going back-and-forth to the bathroom. I couldn’t keep anything down.”

Durr confirmed to Carillo that she had lost 32 pounds as a result of her ordeal. The question of if she’ll ever play basketball again “has definitely crossed (her) mind plenty of times”.

Other affected athletes interviewed came from the collegiate level, including Concordia University runner Natalie Hakala and University of St. Thomas (MN) hockey player Nicole Knudson.

Following her appearance, Durr took to Twitter to thank well-wishers for their support and to encourage them to take the ongoing health crisis seriously.

“My hope is that in sharing my struggle, it will help others,” Durr said on her account, @A_Hooper25. “PLEASE take COVID seriously folks. It’s very real. Wear a mask! Protect each other. Young people, athletes, you too. We are not invincible.

She also assured Liberty fans that she was doing everything in her power to be ready for the 2021 season.

I am working every day to be back for this WNBA season!” Durr wrote. “My progress is slow and incremental, but I’m striving to gain momentum. Thankful for (the Liberty) for their patience & resources. This entire struggle has been a powerful reminder of all my blessings too.”

Durr’s full appearance on the monthly newsmagazine program can be viewed in its entirety on HBO Max (subscription required).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Nayo Raincock-Okunwe skipping another WNBA season

Raincock-Ekunwe, a New York Liberty representative since 2017, will turn her focus toward Canada’s Olympic efforts.

In an interview with CBC Sports, New York Liberty forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe confirmed that she will sit out the 2021 WNBA season. The Toronto-born veteran has expressed her desire to focus on the Canadian national team’s Olympic endeavors at the upcoming Summer Games in Tokyo.

“The plan this year is to forego the WNBA season again and to play with Team Canada for the whole summer, not miss any of our training camps leading up to the Olympics,” Raincock-Ekunwe told Myles Ditcher. “(I am) fully committed to Team Canada.”

Raincock-Ekunwe, 29, joined the Liberty in 2017 and has played two seasons with the team. In that time, she has averaged 3.7 points and 2.2 rebounds over 11 minutes per game. During the latter campaign in 2019, Raincock-Ekunwe developed a strong rapport with fellow Team Canada representative Kia Nurse and then-rookie Marine Johannes.

Though Raincock-Ekunwe will not partake in the Liberty’s 2021 affairs, she did extend some kind words to the New Yorkers in Ditcher’s report. New York endured a 2-20 season during the WNBA’s bubble season in Bradenton, Florida last year, but are set to welcome back touted 2020 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu. The top overall choice and Oregon alumna was lost to the season with an ankle injury sustained in only her third career game.

“I think they’re making some moves this year that will be big, that will be beneficial for the team,” Raincock-Ekunwe said. “Sabrina being healthy and with the rookies they had last season getting some experience last year, I think it will be a great year for New York. So yeah, it’s tough to turn down the opportunity to play in one of the best leagues in the world. But I think Canada has a really good opportunity this summer.”

Raincock-Ekunwe was one of several New York veterans that sat out of the bubble season in the wake of the ongoing health crisis, joining Asia Durr, Rebecca Allen, Marine Johannes, and Han Xu.

In the meantime, Raincock-Ekunwe is currently partaking in overseas action with LDLC ASVEL Féminin in France, alongside Johannes and Alysha Clark of the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm. She mentioned that she endured a milder case of COVID-19 during a pause in the international season, but told Ditcher she is “not feeling any side effects”.

Team Canada is looking to earn its first-ever Olympic medal, its best finish being fourth during the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Raincock-Ekunwe previously partook in the most recent showing in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where Canada placed seventh. More recently, Raincock-Ekunwe was a major factor in clinching a spot for the Tokyo Games. Canada’s undefeated three-game stretch in a qualifying tournament in Ostend, Belgium last February allowed them to clinch one of the dozen spots in the delayed Omypics. The team originally got to the Belgian qualifiers through a three-game showing in Raincock-Ekunwe’s home province of British Columbia. She notably wowed the Edmonton crowd with a double-double showing (27 points, 11 rebounds) in an 84-80 win over Puerto Rico.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

ESM’s New York Liberty free agency preview 2021

Determined to finally rise from the ashes of the WNBA cellar, the New York Liberty now face a most interesting free agency period.

The New York Liberty have sowed their post-Madison Square Garden rebuild for three years now. But after three years at or near the bottom of the WNBA standings, they’re really to start reaping.

Three months after the Bradenton bubble was deflated for the last time, the Association’s free agency period unofficially opened on Friday, with its twelve teams now permitted to negotiate with their own free agents, as well as Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents. Deals and offer sheets can officially be signed on February 1.

Trapped in the midst of a three-year playoff drought, the longest in franchise history, the Liberty have picked some strong-long term contributors during their stay in hardwood purgatory. These additions go far beyond the high-profile arrival of Sabrina Ionescu, as the team has also welcomed in All-Star Kia Nurse and 2020 All-Rookie team representative Jazmine Jones through the draft, while veteran leader Layshia Clarendon arrived through free agency last season. More recently, the Liberty hit the jackpot at the WNBA Draft Lottery for the second straight season, as they earned an early Christmas gift in the form of the top overall pick at this spring’s upcoming draft. Additionally, the Liberty gained franchise stability through new management. Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai purchased the team in 2019 and was ready to move the team into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center before current events enforced a delay.

These decisions and steps forward have done little to atone for the fact that the Liberty have endured some brutal seasons in recent years, with things more or less plummeting in a 2-20 record inside the bubble. The Liberty went through most of last season without Ionescu and veteran contributors like Rebecca Allen, Asia Durr, and Marine Johannes, using seven rookies over the course of the enclosed season. With the veterans set to return, the Liberty will have some major decisions to make when it comes to these young players.

In the lottery aftermath, Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb made it clear that the 2021 season would be one that could at least begin to right the ship while developing some of their younger talents. Kolb labeled this modern endeavor a “hybrid rebuild”.

“We have a really exciting opportunity to kind of have a hybrid rebuild if you will,” Kolb said. “We can be super competitive right now while bringing along the future of the Liberty down the road. So that’s what we’re going to try to do. We have a plan, and we’ll see how it goes. Time will tell.”

“I think the most exciting thing is, we’re in position to do something. We’re positioned cap-wise, flexibility-wise, that if they’re interested in coming to New York, we’re in a position to capitalize on it.”

Based on numbers from Spotrac, the Liberty have just over $467,000 to spend through free agency.

ESM has you covered with what you need to know about the Liberty’s transactional future as the process gets underway…

Resolved

The Liberty have re-upped with one of their free agents thus far.

C/F Kiah Stokes 

Stokes was set to become a free agent but inked a one-year contract extension just before the Liberty’s season finale in September. After sitting out the entire 2019 WNBA season due to personal issues, Stokes returned to America with a newfound propensity for shooting the three, putting up 85 attempts after only three in her first four seasons. She sank only 20, but her newfound confidence from beyond the arc was inspiring to head coach Walt Hopkins.

“Stokes has been a rock for this group in a lot of ways,” Hopkins said in September. “In spite of her going through what has to have been the most difficult mental season in terms of being uncomfortable, when you’re uncomfortable, you’re able to grow.”

“As this season went on, it was quite clear Kiah Stokes needed to be a part of what we’re doing,” Kolb said after her re-upping. “She enables us what we want to be and helps us be what we want to be.”

As a first-round pick from 2015, Stokes also presents a rare form of experience on the current New York roster.

Core/Unrestricted

The Liberty have no players with the core or unrestricted designations.

Reserved

Reserved players are those that have three years or less of WNBA service. Their current teams have exclusive negotiation rights.

F Joyner Holmes

After the Liberty endured their veteran opt-outs, they brought in Holmes, a 2020 second-round pick from Seattle. Holmes averaged 2.9 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19 games off the bench but left her mark on New York history by tying a Liberty rookie record with 13 rebounds in a September tilt against Phoenix.

G Paris Kea 

A former draft pick in Indiana, Kea was signed midseason once it became clear that Ionescu was out with a long-term issue. She made the most of her opportunity, averaging 6.9 points over 11 contests (five of which she started). The Liberty recently announced that Kea underwent knee surgery for an injury she sustained while playing overseas in Israel. Her 2021 status is uncertain, but she is expected to make a full recovery.

Unrestricted

Unrestricted free agents are permitted to sign with any team, except if they been bestowed core status

C Amanda Zahui B

Another New York veteran, coming over in a 2016 trade with the defunct Tulsa Shock, Zahui B emerged as a leader on and off the court last season. The rookie surplus looked up to her as an inspiration, while she used her platform to bring attention to social causes away from the hardwood.

Zahui B set career highs in nearly every major category this season, including averages of 9.0 points and 8.5 rebounds, but with Stokes’ return confirmed and collegiate interior threat Charli Collier potentially up for the top pick, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the Stockholm native’s future.

Suspended/Expired

Players with expired contracts but opted out of the 2020 season can negotiate exclusively with their current team 

F/G Rebecca Allen

Allen opted out of the 2020 season in the wake of the ongoing health crisis, but was routinely mentioned by Liberty representatives over the season. Hopkins, for example, never hesitated to mention just how much he missed having Allen in his debut lineup.

“She’s got a tremendous skill set and she’s got a rare mix of characteristics in that she’s about 6’2 and she’s really long and she’s deceptively athletic to go with her ability to put the ball on the floor and get fouled and shoot the three at such a high level,” Hopkins said earlier last spring. “That’s really the type of player we absolutely need for this system to work and we’ve got one built-in already. On top of that, she’s a phenomenal person.”

F Stephanie Talbot 

Talbot has yet to make her New York debut, having arrived through a draft night trade with Minnesota. Allen’s fellow Opal (a member of Australia’s national squad) likewise opted out but kept busy in her homeland’s top women’s league, earning first-team all-WNBL honors alongside WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage. Talbot previously worked with Hopkins when the latter was an assistant with the Lynx in 2019.

Outside Names to Watch

F Natasha Howard, Seattle

In her brief WNBA time, Ionescu found her shooting prowess rather quickly, scoring 33 points in only her second contest. If the Liberty were able to get another experienced interior threat, similar to what Ionescu had at Oregon with fellow 2020 draftees Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard, it could help her get even more comfortable with the WNBA game.

Howard has had her experience working with game-changing point guards in Seattle, namely Sue Bird. With a pair of All-Defensive First Team nominations, she would also give the Liberty some much needed defensive pointers, as New York has finished no better than ninth in points allowed in each of the past three seasons (including a league-worst 84.3 per game in 2019). Hopkins (as well as assistant Shelley Patterson) has also worked with Howard in the past, as the two previously collaborated on the Lynx’s 2017 run to the WNBA Finals.

F Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles

Both Kolb and Hopkins have preached about the value of high-character players representing New York, and it’s hard to find anyone more accomplished on and off the court than Ogwumike. The current Spark and future Space Jam: A New Legacy star is current in the midst of her second term as the WNBA Players Association president, with Clarendon serving as the second-in-command. WIth WNBPA headquarters situated on Sixth Ave., New York could be an attractive option to Ogwumike from both a basketball and business standpoint.

Both Howard and Ogwumike have core designations, but something can still be accomplished through a sign-and-trade deal.

F Emma Meeseman, Washington

Stokes’ newfound propensity to shoot from deep perhaps best personified Hopkins’ vision of playing positionless basketball where participants are confident from any area of the floor.

That more or less has been the story of Meeseman over the past few seasons, as she has fulfilled a variety of roles under Mike Thibault. She played it to her advantage during the 2019 WNBA Finals, coming off the bench to swipe series MVP honors after skipping the previous 2018 season to represent her native Belgium in the FIBA World Cup. Though Washington struggled without Elena Delle Donne last season, Meeseman set a new career-best with 4.5 assists per game.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Liberty: Paris Kea undergoes successful knee surgery

The New York Liberty’s in-season addition was injured while playing overseas in Israel, but she is expected to make a full recovery.

The New York Liberty announced on Thursday that guard Paris Kea has undergone successful anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery on her left knee earlier this week.

Kea sustained the injury during her overseas endeavors with Maccabi Haifa, an Israeli club. At the time of her injury, she ranked second on the squad with 19.0 points and 2.5 steals per game. Her procedure was performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery under the watch of Dr. Riley Williams III. Rehabilitation begins next week and Kea is expected to make a full recovery.

A North Carolina alumna, Kea joined the Liberty in the middle stages of the WNBA’s bubble season in Bradenton. Entering the league as a third-round pick to Indiana in 2019, Kea averaged 6.9 points over 11 games (five starts), her best output being a 21-point tally against her former team in September. Kea is set to enter free agency, but the Liberty maintain her rights. During her time at Chapel Hill, Kea earned consecutive first-team All-ACC honors, honored alongside current New York teammate Asia Durr.

Elsewhere on Thursday, the Liberty also announced a collaboration with the National Women’s Hockey League, which is set to begin a bubbled season in Lake Placid, NY. In support of the Metropolitan Riveters, cardboard incarnations of Sabrina Ionescu, Layshia Clarendon, Jazmine Jones, Jocelyn Willoughby and Amanda Zahui B. will appear in the bubble at Herb Brooks Arena. The Liberty are one of two WNBA teams partaking in the NWHL union, joining the Connecticut Sun and their union with the Connecticut Whale. Normally playing their games at Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, the Riveters won the league’s Isobel Cup in 2018. The New York Rangers will likewise be “sending” some representatives.

The Liberty will choose first in the 2021 WNBA Draft, set to be held later this spring.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Liberty: Becky Hammon comments on history in San Antonio

The New York Liberty legend became the first woman to serve as a head coach of one of the “Big Four” American sports leagues.

From Rapid City to Manhattan to her current settings to San Antonio, Becky Hammon has always had a knack for making basketball history. Her latest accomplishment is one that will leave a lasting impact on the American sports scene.

Earlier this week, Hammon became the first woman to serve as a head coach in America’s so-called “big four” professional sports when she took over duties for the San Antonio Spurs’ Wednesday tilt against the Los Angeles Lakers. Hammon took over midgame when longtime San Antonio boss Gregg Popovich was ejected.

“It’s a substantial moment,” Hammon said after head coaching debut, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. I’ve been a part of this organization, I got traded here in 2007, so I’ve been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs and sports organization with the Stars and everything for 13 years. So I have a lot of time invested, and they have a lot of time invested in me, in building me and getting me better.”

Hammon, one of the most prolific players in the history of the New York Liberty, has been an assistant on San Antonio’s staff since 2014. She is the second female coach in NBA history, following only Lisa Boyer’s single-year on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench during the 2001-02 season. Prior to her Wednesday endeavor, Hammon guided the Spurs’ Summer League squad to a championship in 2015.

“The guys responded great. I thought we gave ourselves some chances. We battled back multiple times,” she said in McMenamin’s recap. “I think it was business as usual. They’re used to hearing my voice in practice.”

Though San Antonio fell by a 121-107 final, the impact of Hammon’s trailblazing was not lost on the competitors.

“The future is bright for her,” said Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, who scored a game-best 29 points, per Victor Mather and Marc Stein of the New York Times. “I hope she just sticks to it and doesn’t give up. One day it may happen, it may not happen, who knows, but she’s definitely on the right road.”

“It’s a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets,” Lakers star LeBron James added in the Times’ report. “She’s very passionate about the game. So congrats to her, congrats to our league.”

Hammon has had a strong rapport in San Antonio basketball since she was traded to the now-defunct Silver Stars in 2007. Popovich brought her aboard in 2014 after she spent some time at Spurs practices which recovering from in injury during the latter days of her WNBA career.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to her. I pay attention to all those little things,” Murray said, per McMenamin. “She’s been here since I got here. I’ve been watching her talk to every single player, whether he was a veteran dude or a young dude. Just using her voice and her knowledge of the game.

“I love Becky to death. We are really, really close. She texts me on holidays to ask about my daughter, and I ask about her kids. I appreciate her. The future is bright for her. I hope she sticks to it and doesn’t give up.”

Hammon is the most recent inductee into the Liberty’s Ring of Honor, earning entry in 2015 after an eight-year career in New York (1999-2006). She currently ranks fourth all-time in Liberty scoring (2,367) and third in games played (227).

Hammon and the Spurs (2-2) are battling the defending champion Lakers in the latter half of a pair at the AT&T Center on Friday night with their next tilt coming against the Utah Jazz on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Southwest).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags