Liberty will ‘100%’ core Breanna Stewart, want to ‘retain’ Jonquel Jones

Breanna Stewart’s one-year deal with the Liberty expired after Wednesday’s WNBA Finals Game 4 loss. But the 2023 MVP isn’t going anywhere.

The Liberty will “100 percent” core the star this offseason, making her ineligible to test free agency in the winter.

“She will not be an unrestricted free agent,” Kolb said during Friday’s exit interviews at Barclays Center.

Last offseason, Stewart signed a one-year deal with the Liberty after spending the first six years of her career with the Seattle Storm. The five-time All Star would’ve been the premier free agent target, headlining a list that includes her teammate, Jonquel Jones.

Kolb applying the core designation restricts Stewart to only negotiate and sign a deal with the Liberty. The star forward could receive a one-year supermax contract this offseason.

“It’s my first time being cored,” Stewart said after Kolb explained his free agency plans.

The star reflected a bit on her first season with the Libs and already sounded like she’s envisioning her future in seafoam green threads.

“I think that I’m excited for what we’re doing here in New York and with the Liberty,” she said. I know it’s hard to talk about, especially being October and we’re not gonna start a season again until April, but the way we finished things, obviously it’s overshadowed by the disappointment and the loss, but as a whole, it’s been an extremely successful season.”

The “disappointment” was Stewart and the Libs coming up short, 3-1, against the Aces in the WNBA Finals. Stewart was outplayed by WNBA Finals MVP A’ja Wilson. The crushing defeat capped a subpar postseason performance for the 2023 MVP.

Stewart averaged 18.4 points on 35.8% shooting and grabbed 10.2 rebounds in the postseason. She also shot 19.6% from downtown. Her postseason scoring average and shot percentages were a stark decline from her regular season marks — 23 points per game, 46.5% from the field and 36.5% from deep. She also missed 14-of-17 shot attempts in the Game 4 loss.

Stewart’s star teammate, Jones, enjoyed a better postseason — 17 points per game on 55.9% shooting — and is ready to test free agency. Kolb said he planned on having exit meetings with his players — including Jones — after Friday’s exit interviews with media. The GM said he and Jones have “touched on it,” regarding contract extension talks. He added that the former 2021 MVP is “a player we definitely want to retain.”

“And we’ll continue those talks in the offseason,” Kolb said.

Jones landed in New York — alongside Kayla Thornton — last offseason after the Liberty completed a three-team trade involving the Connecticut Sun and Dallas Wings. The center said she’s still trying to process everything,” after the Finals loss, but is “definitely trending towards coming back here.”


Kolb mentioned the team could make changes this offseason to improve the bench.

“I think we can look at our bench and I think we can continue to augment there and improve. We can get longer,” he said. “This year we were very big heavy on the bench. We might shift that.”

He added: “We have to improve our defensive presence off the bench and that will give us more options in different series.”


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