At Last, Jonquel Jones is Hitting Her Stride for the Liberty
Jonquel Jones has entered a new chapter in her basketball career. After spending six successful seasons with the Connecticut Sun, she joined the New York Liberty via blockbuster trade in the offseason.
The move has brought both excitement and challenges for Jones. Adjustment to a new role and a lingering foot injury hampered her production during the first half of the season, but she has found her groove of late, playing confidently and consistently.
Let’s dive into missed opportunities with Jones’s former team, the journey to NYC, the changes that have come with the Liberty, the ups and downs she has faced and what is ahead.
Close, but no cigar
During her time with Connecticut, Jones experienced much success, leading the team to the WNBA Finals and semifinals two times apiece.
Despite these accomplishments, Jones cannot help but think about what could have been: a championship.
“Even when you’re reminiscing, you kind of think about things that you could probably do to get you over that hump,” Jones said. “It’s in the books now. There’s nothing that we can do to change it, but there are times where it’s bitter and when it’s really sweet, literally.
“I’m happy to be able to accomplish what we were able to accomplish. But I still have a sore feeling of not being able to just finish it out and seal the deal.”
Every end is a new beginning
Following last season, Connecticut decided to give the core designation to Most Improved Player and Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones. Because two players cannot be cored at once, time was up for JJ in Uncasville.
According to a league source, the Sun allowed the 2021 MVP to speak to a few teams that she might want to play for. When New York met with Jones, the team not only expressed how much her presence would be valued but also how much the franchise could provide her.
Among their selling points were the 2022 assist rates of Sabrina Ionescu (36.7%, 98th percentile) and Marine Johannes (22%, 80th percentile), comparing their numbers to what she had with Connecticut; and this was before New York added the queen of dimes, Courtney Vandersloot.
The coaching duo of Sandy Brondello and Olaf Lange also enticed Jones. The former coached Phoenix for eight seasons, winning one championship, while the latter helped lead the Chicago Sky to a title in 2021 as an assistant coach.
New York state of mind
Once Jones communicated that New York was her preferred destination, Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb and co. created the right trade package to make it a reality.
The team sent Natasha Howard and Crystal Dangerfield to Dallas, while also sending Rebecca Allen and their 2023 first-round pick to the Sun. The trade brought Jones a fresh start and a new chapter in her story—one that she hopes includes the Liberty’s first WNBA championship.
“That would be amazing,” Jones said. “Everybody knows that New York is a basketball city. People love the game. Even me just being here, I went to the grocery store and people were already talking about winning a championship. They’re really excited about it. It would mean everything to me to bring a championship here to New York.”
Process of adjustment
The Liberty have often been recognized as the WNBA’s latest superteam, with Breanna Stewart, Ionescu, Vandersloot and Betnijah Laney taking the court alongside Jones.
Playing with an emphasis on pace and space, New York prioritizes quick ball movement and outside shooting, which can limit opportunities for post players like Jones to get consistent touches on the interior.
This has required JJ to play a new role and find some other ways to contribute effectively, such as stretching the floor and utilizing her passing abilities as a playmaker, creating opportunities for her teammates.
Tale of two halves
During the first half of the season, change did not come easy for Jones; she often struggled to produce and find her place within the superteam dynamic.
A lingering foot injury, sustained during last year’s Finals in which Connecticut lost 3-1 to the Las Vegas Aces, did not help matters, either.
For all the uneven play fans saw from Jones at the outset, she has made up for it with a hot start to the second half of the season. In seven games since the All-Star break, Jones is averaging 15.7 points, 12.1 rebounds and one block.
Jones is now reminding fans why the Liberty made sure to acquire her. She is healthy, coordinated with her teammates and comfortable playing within the system.
Due to her revival, the Liberty are starting to put it together as the playoffs near, with the Aces still the clear-cut favorite in the league.
Though she is playing in a new role, Jones is critical in the Liberty’s quest for a championship. With her determination, talent and the support of her team, Jones is poised to continue her strong play and help lead the seafoam squad to the mountaintop come season’s end.