The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Stewart: Signing with N.Y. not about matching Aces
Breanna Stewart is only focused on the Liberty.
The star forward’s arrival — alongside Courtney Vandersloot — to Brooklyn solidifies the Liberty on paper as a superteam, joining a roster that already included Sabrina Ionescu, Jonquel Jones and Stefanie Dolson.
However, Stewart asserted that her decision to join the Liberty this offseason wasn’t influenced by the prior success and free agent deals from the Las Vegas Aces, or any team in the WNBA.
“When I thought about coming to the Liberty, it wasn’t because of any decision that anyone else had made,” Stewart said during her introductory press conference. “Obviously, Vegas had success last year and they’ve brought in more players and more talent.
“But I think what we’re focused on right now is what we’re doing here in New York and what we’re doing with the Liberty.”
The defending champion Aces reloaded this offseason by signing twotime MVP Candace Parker. After two seasons with the Chicago Sky, Parker inked a one-year deal worth $100,000 — which is a discount — to join forces with two-time MVP A’ja Wilson, All-Stars Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray.
The two teams will undoubtedly draw comparisons to each other due to the sheer star power featured on their respective rosters. The two franchises’ offseason splashes are something Stewart said “the league needs” and is difficult to accomplish under the league’s core player system.
The core player system functions like the NFL’s franchise tag, allowing WNBA teams to hold on to the rights of a player who would otherwise become a free agent.
“With the old CBA and the ability to core players multiple times, [player autonomy] didn’t really happen much,” Stewart said. “And you’re gonna to see it happening a lot more. And that means just player movement, fan engagement is gonna go from one team to another team. It’s just gonna make it more exciting. Make things more spicy.
“You’re gonna look up, I mean, gonna be weird to see us in a Liberty uniform,” Stewart added while gesturing to her new teammate Vandersloot.
FRIENDS TEAMING UP
Stewart’s arrival teams the star up with her pal, Betnijah Laney. The former MVP said the two have been friends since the age of 14 and both played on the Team USA 16U squad as teenagers. They were also teammates on Team USA’s 2022 World Cup gold medalwinning squad and faced off in their college days, with Stewart at the University of Connecticut and Laney suiting up for Rutgers.
“To be honest, to see her come into the WNBA, kind of figure out where her footing is and find a home in New York and really find success in that, I think is amazing,” 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 excited to have her be on our side, or to be on her side.
“Because I know that she just doesn’t stop working, and she wants to win, and she’s a competitor, and that’s what we all love about her.”