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Liberty’s Asia Durr opts out of 2020 season

Guard still 'fighting to fully recover' from COVID diagnosis

July 9, 2020 John Torenli
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New York Liberty guard Asia Durr had her rookie season cut short by injury last summer.

She won’t even take the court this year.

Durr, the second overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft and the all-time leading scorer in the history of the University of Louisville, tested positive for COVID-19 last month and is still suffering from the effects of the potentially deadly virus.

“As I continue to fight to fully recover, I had to make the difficult decision on a deadline to opt out as a medical High Risk player,” Durr wrote in a twitter post Tuesday, revealing that she would not join her teammates for the start of the WNBA’s season in Bradenton, Florida.

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“So much about this virus is unknown and my heart is heavy, even as I make the decision that I know is best for my long-term wellness,” she added.

Durr, who was supposed to start in the Liberty backcourt alongside this year’s top overall pick, Sabrina Ionescu, averaged 9.7 points per game in 18 contests, including 15 starts, as a first-year player for New York before her season was derailed by a groin injury.

The Georgia native also had hip surgery in September, but had worked her way back into playing shape and was determined to return to the hardwood this year before she tested positive for the coronavirus on June 8.

“Asia worked extremely hard this offseason to put herself in position to take a major leap forward in her second WNBA season,” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said Tuesday, just after New York players traveled to Florida’s IMG Academy to begin training for the season.

“While we are disappointed that we will need to wait a bit longer to see her emerge as one of the bright young players in the game, we fully recognize and support the difficult decision she had to make amidst unprecedented circumstances. Brooklyn will be ready for her in 2021.”

Durr joins Rebecca Allen as the second Liberty player to opt out of the 22-game schedule at the IMG Academy bubble in Florida.

Allen, a 6-foot-2 sharpshooter from Australia, cited her reasons for sitting out the 2020 campaign last month.

“This has absolutely been one of the toughest decisions, but after much thought and discussions, I have decided to opt out of the 2020 season in Florida,” she said. “The uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis and the logistical health risks related to travel have led me to conclude that it’s best if I not play in the WNBA this year.

“I would like to thank the Liberty for their support and understanding. I’ll certainly miss all my teammates, staff and fans this year. I’ll be cheering loud from Australia and I look forward to getting back on the court in 2021.”

Allen made her WNBA debut with the Liberty in 2015 and enjoyed a career year last summer, averaging 7.2 points per game despite playing through a hand injury.

“Rebecca is a consummate professional and a key factor to the team’s new style of play,” said Kolb. “We understand that these decisions are never easy and, while she will certainly be missed this season, we fully support her decision to do what is best for her and her family.”

Ionescu, whom many consider a transformational player, not only for the Liberty but for women’s basketball as a whole, will be looked upon to lead the team in Florida despite her own rookie status.

Incoming Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu will have a roster stacked with fellow rookie teammates when New York starts the 2020 season later this month at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Photo: David Zalubowski/AP

New York players choosing to participate in the 2020 campaign, which is scheduled to tip off July 24, descended on the league’s bubble site Monday, but there have already been complaints that conditions at the IMG facility are unsuitable for a long- or short-term stay.

Several players provided videos displaying rodent traps and bugs within the facility.

“We have been working closely with IMG and the Players Association to address issues players have expressed about one of the housing locations on campus,” the WNBA said Tuesday in a league-issued statement.

“IMG is accommodating all player requests regarding these issues, including moving players to other accommodations.”

WNBA Players’ Association executive director Terri Jackson took the league to task for the bad conditions at IMG, though the reviews for the housing weren’t all bad.

“I thought that the league would identify a return-to-play site that would accommodate professional athletes,” Jackson told ESPN. “And I’m still hoping that will prove to be true.”

The league also drew headlines Tuesday as Georgia Sen. and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler wrote WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to ask that all players wear American flags on their jerseys, and that the league not show allegiance to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice,” Engelbert swiftly countered.

“Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not served as a Governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team.”

The Brooklyn-based Liberty, who are hoping to stage their first full season at Downtown’s Barclays Center in 2021, finished 10-24 last year, earning the right to draft Ionescu.

The 2020 roster is laden with first-year players and will be guided by new Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins.

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