Excitement is in the air!
After a solid 2022 campaign that saw their first playoff victory in five years, the New York Liberty are hoping to be even better in 2023. With coach Sandy Brondello in her second year and a lot of star power, the Liberty have some unfinished business to attend to.
The 2023 WNBA expanded the regular season to a record-high 40 games as the schedule stretches from mid-May to mid-September, with the playoffs lasting into October. This is the first year since 2019 that the league will not have to deal with any major disruptions affecting play. The league also has a new television partner as it inked a multi-year contract with Scripps to broadcast Friday night games on ION. Of those 40 games, the Liberty will appear on ION eight times.
The Liberty will ring in the new season as they face the Washington Mystics in D.C. on Friday, May 19 at 7 p.m. The Mystics look a bit different this year, but still promise to be a tough opponent that will provide a great test for an improved Liberty team.
The squad comes back to Brooklyn for the home opener on Sunday, May 21, against the Indiana Fever at 2 p.m. Along with the excitement of a home opener, it will be fans’ first chance to see No. 1 2023 WNBA draft pick Aliyah Boston. Boston is a generational talent, and her presence should help the Fever climb back to respectability. The Fever will be on the road for the early part of the schedule and will look to learn on the fly.
With all of the big moves the Liberty made, it will make for some awesome return games. Breanna Stewart is first up as she visits her old stomping grounds in Seattle to face the Storm on May 30. Courtney Vandersloot is next as she returns to Chicago to face the Sky on June 2, and Jonquel Jones makes her return to Connecticut to face the Sun on June 27. All three nights promise to be emotional, and the returning stars will be the center of attention.
Not to be outdone, there will also be some Brooklyn homecomings! Rebecca Allen, who spent seven seasons with the Liberty, was traded to the Sun in the Jones trade and will be back in New York on May 27 with Connecticut. Allen was terrific in her time in New York and should get a rousing ovation from the team and fans at Barclays Center.
When the Liberty made the trade for Jones, they also said goodbye to Natasha Howard and Crystal Dangerfield. Howard helped turn the Liberty back into playoff contenders when she arrived in 2021 and provided valuable leadership and experience for her young teammates. She instantly provided New York with credibility after a rough couple of seasons, and her contributions helped shape the franchise and put it on the path that is on now.
Dangerfield stabilized the team after its 1-7 start to the season. General manager Jonathan Kolb spoke about Dangerfield, saying, “Crystal’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen and should be in this league for a very long time. She immediately steadied our offense, provided pace and efficiency, and became a clear difference-maker in our playoff pursuit last season.”
Howard and Dangerfield come back to New York with the Dallas Wings on June 11 and should receive warm welcomes from the Brooklyn faithful. Dallas has a lot of talent, but there are questions as to how the players will fit with one another and a new coach.
WNBA Day-Time Adventures
Fans may recall the Liberty’s Camp Day struggles last season—the team played three straight games before noon and lost them all. It was part of a five-game losing streak that almost derailed New York’s season. After a tough defeat at the hand of the Las Vegas Aces, I asked Brondello if there were any positives from the game. Here is what she said.
Fortunately for the Liberty, the schedule is a bit more forgiving. They only have two early tip-offs in 2023: They go into the All-Star break on July 12 against the Indiana Fever with a noon start, and when they come back home on July 19 against the Wings, they will tip off at 1 p.m. It is an improvement after the team was dealt a bad hand with three straight morning start times last season.
Clash of the Titans
While the Liberty bolstered their roster, the Aces did the same. They signed Candace Parker and Alysha Clark in free agency to bolster the core of Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and the M’VP, A’ja Wilson. Las Vegas won the WNBA title last year and is favored to repeat this year. The team has a chance to be the first repeat champions since the 2002 Los Angeles Sparks, but the Liberty will try to prevent history being made. The road to the WNBA championship runs through Vegas, and New York hopes to be the team to dethrone the champs.
The two title favorites face off four times during the regular season:
- June 29 in Las Vegas
- August 6 in New York
- August 17 in Las Vegas
- August 28 in New York
Each contest will give fans something to put into the memory bank should the two teams meet in the postseason. The best are supposed to clash at the top, and these games could be the start of a long-lasting rivalry.
More Key Games to Watch
A game to keep an eye on will come on June 13 against the Dream. Last year, the Liberty held Atlanta off on the last day of the season to make the playoffs. With more experience and a great offseason, Atlanta seems ready to take the next step. This game is the start of a four-game road trip for the Dream and the second of a three-game homestand for New York. There is a four-day break in the schedule before the Liberty’s next game, so fans will have to see how Brondello manages the rotations.
On June 18, the Liberty will host the Phoenix Mercury. It will be a special day as Brittney Griner will be playing. After her release from a Russian prison, Griner re-signed with the Mercury and is feeling great in training camp. It is wonderful to have BG back, and fans will be welcoming Michaela Onyenwere back to New York as well. Onyenwere had a lot of success in New York and grew as a player, so it will be exciting to see how she fits next to BG, Diana Taurasi and the Mercury.
In August, the Liberty embark on a five-game road trip with stops at Indiana, Vegas, Phoenix, Connecticut and Minnesota. The matchups against the Aces and Mercury are the team’s lone back-to-back, a repeat of possibly the best and worst performance put on by the team during last year’s tightly scheduled games. Long road trips are usually the hardest part of the schedule, so fans will have to see how the Liberty hold up.
The Road Ahead
Rosters across the W are not set just yet, but the Liberty are in great shape. The team took another step forward in 2022 and hopes to push even further in 2023. With the expanded schedule, New York will have more chances to build on the good vibes as the team chases a championship. With training camp done and the season starting soon, fans will see what 2023 has in store for the hometown heroes. Thanks to their dream offseason, the Liberty have the pieces to finish the story and bring a championship back to New York.