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2023 WNBA season preview: Light it up New York — the Liberty’s super team experiment is underway

The New York Liberty head into uncharted super team waters as they make a run at their first championship led by Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, Courtney Vandersloot, Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney.

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces
Breanna Stewart
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The New York Liberty made waves this offseason by assembling a team filled to the brim with All-Stars. It’s been a rocky few years for the Liberty, but new staff, a huge investment in player health and facilities and a new coach all made them the premier free agency destination this winter. Now, with some of the best odds in the league and a starting lineup filled with multiple former MVPs, champions and All-Stars — the Liberty are ready to rock New York.

This new era of New York basketball in the WNBA started when Sabrina Ionescu was drafted first overall in the 2020 draft. After suffering injuries in her first few seasons, the 2022 season was the first time fans really began to see all that Ionescu is capable of and the Liberty recently signed her to an extension— but she can’t do it alone. The first big offseason win for this franchise was the acquisition of former MVP Jonquel Jones from the Connecticut Sun. Jones requested a trade from the Sun after the team fell short in recent years despite being favorites to win it all.

That in itself was a huge deal for the Liberty’s chances, but the fun times just kept on coming. The biggest name in free agency talk was Breanna Stewart: former MVP, All-Star, WNBA champ, EuroLeague champ, 4x NCAA Champ, the list goes on and on. She’s a generational talent, and after winning two championships with the Seattle Storm, rumors were buzzing that Stewie was ready for change. In the past few years she got married and welcomed her first child (with number two now on the way!) and many said she wanted to move closer to her home state of New York. With Sue Bird retired and her contract up, it was the perfect time, and after weeks of online teasing she announced she’d be coming to the Liberty.

The last piece of the puzzle came when another big free agent, Courtney Vandersloot, decided to make New York the next stop in her career. A champion point guard with the Chicago Sky, Vandersloot’s experience and floor direction were the last things the Liberty needed to officially launch into the super team universe. With the big names assembled and a pool of young talent signed, the team headed into training camp.

It was not the most flashy training camp for the team. Vandersloot suffered a head injury on her first day, Stewart couldn’t make it until about a week into camp after winning a championship in Europe and the team lost their last preseason game to their new super team rival, the Las Vegas Aces. Yet, there is no reason to worry about this squad. Training camp is extremely short, and they aren’t competing for a championship tomorrow — there is time to build the team chemistry.

Vandersloot is expected to be ready for opening night and Ionescu “surprised Coach (Sandy) Brondello the most” in camp, according to the team’s coach-only press conference. Stewie and Vandersloot just won a championship in the Turkish league together; that chemistry will surely carry over into the WNBA season. Many of these players have played together on other teams, in college, or in USA basketball camps and competitions. It shouldn’t be hard to put the pieces together over the first few weeks of the season, and these players can be trusted.

So is it championship or bust for this squad? When asked in media day, the players, coaches and front office seemed to have the same kinds of answers. They need to win each day, take it day-by-day, and not think about anything but the present moment. The WNBA Finals are not today. For now, they need to focus on winning games and staying healthy.

Which is helped by their first-class facilities and the commitment the organization has to the players. There is a reason both the Liberty and Aces were hot spots for free agents this season — their practice facilities, amenities and treatment are top-tier. Stewart mentioned it as part of her media day press conference, and Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said he wants New York to “set the standard” for the rest of the league. When players are taken care of, they can perform better, and that’s exactly what will happen for the Liberty this season.

It’s hard to compare the Liberty this year to the Liberty even just last year with all these huge moves and new faces. They improved quite a lot last season, finishing seventh overall in the league and making the playoffs with a record of 16-20. With an increase of games this upcoming season, the talent of the roster boosted and no way to compare this first-of-its-kind lineup to anything else in WNBA history — this Liberty team is an experiment. The hypothesis looks pretty good for them, so expect the team to have a very different result this season even compared to last year, even if they don’t end up winning the whole thing. One thing is fore sure — this franchise has a bright future.

It’s a season full of expectation for the Liberty, which can often add a lot of pressure. For other teams, this may pose a threat, but for these vets it will be fine. While fans of the team may not recognize the roster in comparison to the last couple of years, they should be happy to be launched to the top of all projections/odds lists/power rankings. Plus, the youthful spirit of the Liberty team we’ve loved over the past couple years is still there, and the team may be as hungry as ever to succeed.

Get ready to get loud New York fans, it’s going to be a great season!