Jonquel Jones: 'Would be amazing' to bring Liberty title

ByM.A. Voepel ESPN logo
Friday, January 20, 2023

Jonquel Jones, the 2021 WNBA MVP who was traded this week to the New York Liberty from the Connecticut Sun, said she would love to help the Liberty win their first WNBA title.

"That would be amazing," Jones said Friday as she met with media for the first time since the trade. "Everybody knows New York is a basketball city. It would mean everything to bring a championship to New York, but also I think it would mean a lot to the WNBA."

The Liberty are an original WNBA franchise, launching in 1997, but they haven't been to the WNBA Finals since 2002. Obtaining a player of Jones' caliber while in her prime -- she turned 29 earlier this month -- is part of the Liberty's plan to try to reach the top of the league.

"Anytime you have a chance to get somebody like this, you have to jump at it," Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said. "Players like Jonquel do not become available very often."

In the three-team trade, New York sent Rebecca Allen to Connecticut, and Natasha Howard and the rights to Crystal Dangerfield to Dallas, which sent Kayla Thornton to the Liberty and Tysha Harris to the Sun. Connecticut also got New York's No. 6 pick in the upcoming draft.

Jones acknowledged Friday she sought the trade from Connecticut. She was the No. 6 pick in the 2016 draft by the Los Angeles Sparks, who traded her on draft day to the Sun. In six seasons with Connecticut, Jones averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, leading Connecticut to the WNBA Finals in 2019 and last year.

The Liberty went 16-20 last year and lost to the Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs under coach Sandy Brondello, who came to New York in 2022 after eight seasons guiding the Phoenix Mercury.

Jones said facing the Liberty last year, she could see a shift in the culture and playing style under Brondello, which made going to the team appealing to her.

"A lot of young talent that was very lively, and you could see they were invested in winning," Jones said of what she saw of the Liberty. "I wanted to be a part of that. Great coaching staff. And I wanted to be in a city like New York.

"I felt like it was just time for a change. I came into [last] season knowing it would probably be my last in Connecticut. But I wanted to give it my all, wanted to see what that the team looked like. For my growth as an athlete and a person, I wanted to be able to step into a new situation."

Among the young players the Liberty have is guard Sabrina Ionescu, who was the WNBA's No. 1 pick in 2020. Jones is looking forward to playing alongside her.

"It's going to be mutually beneficial," Jones said, "so I'm excited."

With the free agency period starting -- players can sign beginning Feb. 1 -- the Liberty may not be done making big personnel moves. New York is one of the teams that free agent Breanna Stewart, the 2018 MVP with Seattle, is considering.

"We're going to be really aggressive," Kolb said about free agency. "We're excited about the opportunity to add talent, and we'll see how this plays out over the next few weeks."