The seeds for the Liberty’s super-team were sown in January.
Back then, the Liberty could only pitch the vision of a large championship lead. They began with a recruiting trip to Turkey to chase former WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart. Then, a second former MVP, Jonquel Jones, saw a likelihood to play with Stewart and compelled a trade to make it occur.
Stewart, Jones and the remaining saw the Liberty’s vision clearly, and are determined to make it a reality.
Of all of the things concerning the Liberty, who will host the Connecticut Sun in Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals on Sunday, their focus has surprised Stewart essentially the most.
“I feel just the hunger and the attention to know the moment that we’re in and the potential that this team has,” Stewart said after practice Saturday. “And ensuring that irrespective of what we do, we do it to the fullest and realize that these opportunities don’t come often, and ensuring that we just benefit from it.”
That chance is why Stewart joined the team.
In January, the Liberty sent a delegation that included co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, coach Sandy Brondello and general manager Jonathan Kolb to Istanbul to recruit Stewart, who then was playing for Turkish team Fenerbahce through the WNBA offseason.
The trip included a two-hour boat ride through the Bosporus Strait with Stewart’s wife, Marta Xargay Casademont, and their toddler daughter, Ruby.
Stewart had already won two titles, but she saw the prospect for a 3rd — or more.
“Oh, it was pretty clear, being a championship contender and knowing that we’re going to have the pieces, but we still need to put them together, and understanding that,” Stewart said. “But with what happened in free agency and clearly the players that’d been here before, we knew if we could trust and construct some chemistry, we could do something special. And we’re excited and motivated by it.”
Jones had the identical vision.
The 6-foot-6 center, who won the 2021 MVP award with Connecticut, led the Sun last season to a second crushing Finals loss in 4 years. After a training change, she decided she needed a change as well and requested a trade to the Liberty — for the prospect to link up with free agents Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot, and holdovers comparable to Sabrina Ionescu.
“I just felt prefer it was time for me to make that change in my profession and go to go to a latest place,” Jones said. “Then I had the chance to affix Sloot and Stewie and the members of this team already. I just felt prefer it was something that was going to be extremely special, and a team that will have the opportunity to achieve that mountaintop in something that I haven’t done in my profession. So I feel really good about that.”
Jones might be an enormous key against a Sun team that’s missing center Brionna Jones after an Achilles injury. Jonquel Jones averaged 19.5 points and 13 rebounds in the primary round, and the Liberty are 13-0 when she has a double-double.
“[She’s] big time,” Brondello said. “You will have to go at her until they stop her.”
Jones now’s on a team she’s convinced can reach the mountaintop, and her former Connecticut squad is the one standing in the best way, starting Sunday.
“I do know, right? It’s weird. It’s like a movie or something,” Jones said with fun. “But at the top of the day, we got here along with a typical goal. And for us, Connecticut is that next step that we’re specializing in. And we understand that, like I said, it’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be quite a bit happening. Nevertheless it’s probably not about me, it’s about our team together and us putting our greatest foot forward.”
Joe Tsai’s other Barclays Center superteam didn’t manage that. The Nets’ Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden could never stay on the court together or on the identical page. The Liberty can show they’re able to try this.
“You possibly can have great players, and in the event that they don’t buy in you possibly can haven’t much success. … At first we needed to learn easy methods to play together in a latest system and easy methods to work it out — coaches, too,” Brondello said. “So credit to the players, they bought in from Day 1. When your best players buy in, great things can occur. And that’s what we had.
“You need to coach the very best, put the very best team on the market to win. And it’s never been done in Latest York. In order that’s what we’re attempting to throw on the market; how cool would that be? They’re all playing a extremely high level and hopefully we are able to proceed that.”