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Liberty acquire Jones in blockbuster deal

Former MVP 'can't wait' to come to Downtown Brooklyn

January 17, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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While the Brooklyn Nets continue to wait for Kevin Durant’s return from injury, their fellow tenants at Downtown’s Barclays Center scooped up a Most Valuable Player of their own.

The New York Liberty announced Monday that they acquired former WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones from the Connecticut Sun in a blockbuster offseason deal that might elevate their stock as a serious contender for their first-ever championship.

“To say I’m excited would be a huge understatement!,” Jones pronounced in a team-issued statement.

“To the fans, future teammates and everyone that has welcomed me to New York thank you!

The Liberty, who were bounced out of the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, sent forward Natasha Howard and the rights to guard Crystal Dangerfield to Dallas and guard Rebecca Allen to Connecticut in the three-team swap that also garnered them forward Kayla Thornton from the Sun.

“Adding Jonquel and Kayla to our roster in the prime of their careers was a can’t-miss opportunity to bolster our frontcourt on both ends of the floor,” said Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb.

“JJ brings an established MVP skill set, and Kayla possesses a rare combination of defensive physicality and offensive spacing,” he added. “We can’t wait to welcome them to the Liberty family and get to work on pursuing our championship goals.”

New York also sent the No. 6 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft to Connecticut, which rode Jones to the Finals in two of the previous four seasons.

Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello will have Sabrina Ionescu and former WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones in the lineup next year. AP Photo by Nam Y. Huh

The 29-year-old Jones comes to our borough after six seasons with the Sun, who drafted her sixth overall in 2016 out of George Washington University.

The 6-foot-6 superstar is a four-time WNBA All-Star with two All-Defensive First Team honors. She also was named Most Improved Player in 2017 and was tabbed Sixth Woman of the Year in 2018.

Despite losing both of her Finals appearances in Connecticut, Jones can chase that elusive first title alongside Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu at the Barclays Center.

Jones averaged 13.6 points per game to go with 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 blocks per contest over her first six years in the league. She also shot 51 percent from the floor, including 37 percent from 3-point range, making her a threat from anywhere on the hardwood.

Thornton, a 6-foot-1, 30-year-old forward, spent her first six years with the Wings in Dallas, where she averaged 7.9 points and 4.7 boards per game.

Losing players like Howard, Dangerfield and Allen comes with its drawbacks as the trio was instrumental in helping New York emerge from the depths of the Eastern Conference standings and into playoff contention the past two years.

“We can’t thank Bec, Tash, and Crystal enough for their contributions to the Liberty organization throughout their respective careers in New York–both on and off the court,” noted Kolb.

Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello helped the team make significant strides last season, pushing then-defending WNBA champion Chicago to a decisive third game in the opening round of the postseason after New York won seven of its last nine games just to reach the playoffs.

Ionescu, a first-time All-Star starter and All-WNBA Second Team selection in 2022, will have a former MVP on her wing going forward, something Jones is looking forward to as next summer approaches.

“I can’t wait to get this season going and show out in the Big Apple!,” she gushed.

The Liberty bid farewell Monday to veteran forward Natasha Howard, who was part of a three-team deal that brought Jonquel Jones to Brooklyn. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Howard, who joined Ionescu at last year’s All-Star Game, received praise from Kolb for her veteran presence and determination in helping New York into the playoffs the past two years. “Tash played a tremendous role in repositioning this franchise as a playoff contender,” said Kolb. “It was truly special to see a three-time WNBA Champion take a chance on us and embrace the challenge of elevating a young core to the extent that she did.” … The Liberty will open the 2023 campaign at Washington on May 19. Their home opener is May 21 vs. Indiana. Jones will meet her former Connecticut teammates for the first time on May 27 at Barclays. … The Nets were 0-2 without Durant (right MCL sprain) entering Tuesday night’s game vs. Oklahoma City in Brooklyn. The former NBA MVP is expected to be out at least another month.

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