Breanna Stewart and her Kevin Durant year ahead — Diamond DeShields talks arrival in Phoenix — Must-click women’s basketball links

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, February 9, 2022

One evening, I found myself among other NBA reporters, awaiting Kevin Durant, following a Golden State Warriors practice at the NBPA facility in Manhattan.

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The purpose of this avail, for me, was to ask Durant about Breanna Stewart. I honestly forget which story it was for, but I have often found editors who would otherwise be uninterested in women’s basketball stories suddenly perk up when I’d explain that men’s basketball players actually cared about this as well. So while Durant is not merely a passing fan of the women’s game, it was probably for one of those outlets, where you have to make the case for a story about the most decorated women’s basketball player in the world as newsworthy.

Anyhow, I was surrounded by colleagues working on a variation of a different Durant story: was he going to come to the New York Knicks? (Obviously, and this was concrete conventional wisdom, if he came to New York it would be only to the Knicks, not the Nets.)

Durant parried one question after another — he clearly wasn’t going to announce, mid-season, that he’d signed with the Knicks, so instead it was about what was hinted at, shaded at — until finally, I asked my Breanna Stewart question, and such a look of relief came over his face as he processed it and began to answer, and I got dirty looks from some of my colleagues for going off-script.

I bring this up because Breanna Stewart, now, is heading into one of those seasons, after signing a one-year deal with the Seattle Storm following a public flirtation with the New York Liberty, a step beyond any Durant had taken in his pre-Nets days.

The logic behind Stewart to New York has always been obvious. For her parents, a reasonable drive from North Syracuse gets them to all her home games. For Stewart’s brand, a chance to blossom in the biggest media market in the league. For the Liberty, a chance to counter their championship-free existence with a walking trophy. And even her partnership with Sue Bird in Seattle has just one year left to run on it.

Then again, New York isn’t the only team that would have interest in Stewart, as this Chris Haynes tweet reminded everyone who might not be aware.

I definitely had some WNBA people in my texts roaring about that one. Really, you think? All 12 wanted the MVP and two-time WNBA champion who has defined the sport’s current position-less revolution, especially without having to give up any talent in return? I hear there’s also widespread interest every time someone drops a planeload of money out of the sky! Okay, I’m done. For now.

But that’s part of the year ahead, too. In all 12 markets, there will be questions for Stewart about how she likes it, no different than it was for Durant, if somewhat muted by the smaller amount of coverage the league receives compared to the NBA. And they should ask! They should ask if maybe Stewart wants to team up with Candace Parker in Chicago, or Nneka Ogwumike in LA. If she wants to win one with Diana Taurasi in Phoenix, or come back to the state of her college glory in Connecticut. Maybe she just loves peaches, and wants to headline the Atlanta Dream for a while!

This is, to my mind, good for the WNBA. A signature star transaction chase is something that drives coverage, period. If you don’t believe me, google “Ben Simmons trade” and then circle back once you finish reading all the articles written this month alone. It’ll fill up your entire year. We haven’t seen this before in WNBA circles! And it’s time.

If New York reporters want to get in on the action, but can’t rely on anyone from the Liberty for answers lest they commit tampering, I even have someone they ought to go interview about Breanna Stewart. He plays for the Nets.

Special Caitlin Clark Flash Sale!

In honor of the Iowa guard’s 46-point performance, we’re offering a discount rate of $46 for a year of The Next, a discount of more than 36 percent off our usual annual rate. Deal only available until tip of Iowa’s next game Wednesday night.

This week in women’s basketball

Here’s Dorothy Gentry on Pokey Chatman.

Meredith Cash looks at how AU is all-in on sports betting.

More Imani McGee-Stafford, please.

Just read this from Bailey Johnson.

Don’t miss Chantel Jennings on Kellie Harper.

Derek Willis here on the Big Ten as always.

Russ Steinberg on the greatness of Caitlin Clark by the numbers.

More on Clark here from Adam Vachon.

And here’s James Hyman on the state of the ACC.

Always delightful when I’m listening to the Cheryl Reeve Show and I come up!

You know how you’ll hear about a writer’s favorite writer? Karl Smesko is a coach’s favorite coach.

Wait, I was told UConn was dead, what happened? You mean they figured it out, like always?

Five at The IX: Diamond DeShields, Phoenix Mercury

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.