Breanna Stewart is solely concerned with the Liberty.
The arrival of the star forward, along with Courtney Vandersloot, solidifies the Liberty as a superteam on paper, joining a roster that already included Sabrina Ionescu, Jonquel Jones, and Stefanie Dolson.
Stewart, on the other hand, insisted that her decision to join the Liberty this offseason was not influenced by the previous success and free agent deals of the Las Vegas Aces or any other WNBA team.
“I didn’t think about coming to the Liberty because of any decision made by anyone else,” Stewart said during her introductory press conference. “Obviously, Vegas was successful last year, and they’ve added more players and talent.
“But I think right now we’re focused on what we’re doing in New York and what we’re doing with the Liberty.”
This offseason, the defending champion Aces reloaded by signing two-time MVP Candace Parker. Parker signed a one-year deal worth $100,000 — a discount — to join forces with two-time MVP A’ja Wilson, All-Stars Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray after two seasons with the Chicago Sky.
Because of the sheer star power on their respective rosters, the two teams will undoubtedly be compared. Stewart stated that the two franchises’ offseason moves are something “the league needs,” but they are difficult to achieve under the league’s core player system.
The core player system, which works similarly to the NFL’s franchise tag, allows WNBA teams to retain the rights to a player who would otherwise become a free agent.
“[Player autonomy] didn’t happen much with the old CBA and the ability to core players multiple times,” Stewart said. “And you’re going to see a lot more of it. That means that, in addition to player movement, fan engagement will shift from one team to another. It’ll just add to the excitement. Make things spicier.
“You’re going to look up, I mean, it’ll be weird to see us in a Liberty uniform,” Stewart added, motioning to Vandersloot, her new teammate. “I believe it will be strange for us to see ourselves in a Liberty uniform. But it’s what the league needs to keep growing the way we want it to and the way it should.”
FRIENDS WORKING TOGETHER
Stewart’s appearance brings her together with her pal, Betnijah Laney. The former MVP stated that the two have been friends since they were 14 years old and that they both played on the Team USA 16U squad as teenagers. They were also teammates on Team USA’s gold-medal-winning World Cup squad in 2022, and they competed in college, with Stewart playing for the University of Connecticut and Laney for Rutgers.
“To be honest, I think it’s amazing to see her come into the WNBA, kind of find her footing, find a home in New York, and really find success in that,” Stewart said. “Just to see her fight, and her hard work, and her grit has never stopped and she knew that she could be at this stage qnd at this level. And ecstatic to have her on our side, or to be on hers.
“Because I know she never stops working, she wants to win, she’s a competitor, and that’s what we all admire about her.”
Sika Sone, a forward, was signed to a rookie scale contract by the Liberty. Sone was chosen 29th overall in the 2022 WNBA Draft by the team. The 6-3 forward spent four seasons with Spar Gran Canaria in Spain. In 20 games this season, she averaged 17.1 points and 13.6 rebounds.
In exchange for 2021 Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere, the Liberty also received the rights to forward Leonie Fiebich, the Chicago Sky’s 2024 second-round pick, and 2025 first-round pick swap rights with the Phoenix Mercury. The trade is part of a four-team deal that also included the Dallas Wings receiving Diamond DeShields and draught compensation and the Chicago Sky receiving Marina Mabrey and draught compensation.
Onyenwere became Liberty’s first ROY winner. She averaged 6.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 39% from the field in her two seasons with the team.
“Michaela was instrumental in reviving the Liberty team,” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said in a statement. “Her contributions in the early stages of her career have been incredibly impressive. Mic brought unrivalled energy and positivity, regardless of her role, which speaks volumes about her character and selflessness. She has a bright future ahead of her, and we wish her all the best in Phoenix, where she is poised to take on a larger role.”
The Los Angeles Sparks selected 6-4 Fiebich 22nd overall in the 2020 draught. Fiebich plays for the German National Team and the Spanish club Zaragoza. She has averaged 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in 22 games for LF Endesa and EuroCup, while shooting 44.6% from three-point range.