New York-based Breanna Stewart and the New York Liberty narrowly missed out on clinching the franchise’s inaugural WNBA championship. They were defeated by the Las Vegas Aces in the Finals.
This marked the first time Stewart had experienced defeat in a championship round since her college freshman year. The league’s MVP emerged triumphant in the two Finals series she played with the Seattle Storm and also claimed four NCAA championships during her stint at UConn. The only instance she fell short in a title game occurred in the Big East Tournament during her freshman season.
“Ensuring that I don’t experience that feeling again, I believe that’s my primary focus moving forward,” emphasized Stewart on Friday.
New York aims to retain most of the existing team for the upcoming season. While Stewart could potentially become an unrestricted free agent, Liberty’s general manager Jonathan Kolb confirmed that the franchise would apply the “franchise tag” to prevent her from directly signing with another team.
“Being tagged is a first for me. Not entirely unexpected,” remarked Stewart. “I’m genuinely excited about our progress here in New York, in collaboration with the Liberty. … I eagerly look forward to being a part of it for many years to come.”
Stewart remains fully committed to pursuing a championship for the city.
“Reaching the Finals wasn’t our ultimate objective at the outset of the season. Merely being one game away from claiming the title isn’t satisfactory,” she expressed. “We desired victory, and now we must build on that desire without forgetting what it feels like to reach this stage.”
While Stewart is undoubtedly staying put for the foreseeable future, the Liberty must strategize how to re-sign free agent Jonquel Jones, who demonstrated remarkable performance during the playoffs. Jones averaged 17.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks throughout the postseason.
Jones, who joined New York through a trade in the offseason, is also an unrestricted free agent.
“She’s undeniably a player we are eager to retain, and we will continue negotiations into the offseason,” Kolb confirmed.
Jones thoroughly enjoyed her debut season in New York and revealed she is “strongly inclined to return here.”
For the upcoming season, the Liberty have already secured the services of Betnijah Laney, Courtney Vandersloot, and Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu unveiled on Friday that she had been grappling with a hip injury during the WNBA Finals, which she sustained in the previous round against Connecticut.
Ionescu refused to employ the ailment “as an excuse” but admitted that she was not operating at full capacity during the Finals. She only averaged 9.7 points and shot 31.5% from the field over the course of the four games.
“I had to receive an injection before (Game 1) just to be able to participate in the first two games against Vegas,” she revealed. “So obviously, it wasn’t ideal. It’s just one of those things that happen. There’s no denying the impact, but I mean, I couldn’t walk properly, so the timing was far from ideal.”
Rachel Adams is your WNBA insider, delivering comprehensive coverage of women’s basketball. With a commitment to highlighting the talent and achievements of WNBA players, she provides game analysis, player profiles, and inspiring stories from the league.