The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, August 14, 2019
One home for the Liberty — Courtney Williams interview — Must-click women's basketball links
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One home for the Liberty
News broke on Tuesday that Joseph Tsai, the minority owner of the Nets, plans to exercise his right to buy a majority stake in the team. That’s a WNBA story, though not directly, for a few reasons.
The NBA prefers to have its team owners also own their own arenas.
The Nets play at Barclays Center.
Joseph Tsai has been engaged in talks to buy Barclays Center.
Joseph Tsai has said that he needs to buy Barclays Center to guarantee that the Liberty would play there.
Accordingly, the New York Post had a different plan being floated, which involves the Liberty playing at a combination of Barclays and Nassau Coliseum, and I’m here to say that such a plan does not fulfill the hopes and dreams Tsai put forward in his introductory press conference.
Put aside that obviously, either venue is superior to Westchester County Center for reasons of both economics (3,000 is listed capacity, but several league sources I’ve spoken to doubt it is even that many) and player experience (man, where do even start on that front). No one is pretending that WCC is a real option anymore, not now that James Dolan is no longer holding the team hostage.
So the question is, what accomplishes Tsai’s reasons for buying the team, namely to dramatically grow the fan base for the Liberty and improve the professional experience for the Liberty players?
Well, putting them in two venues all but guarantees an uncomfortable experience for the Liberty, and a Sophie’s Choice for would-be season ticket holders in all but a few pockets of the New York metro area.
Playing just at Nassau could, in time, grow a fan base that approaches the 10k who routinely came to The Garden for Liberty games before Dolan tossed the Liberty to the side of the road and drove off. But it would take time, largely growing a new base, just to reach where they were a few years ago.
Barclays, easily accessible in the five boroughs for both those who used to come to The Garden and a new collection of fans who could be activated by a motivated ownership group that put real effort into marketing, well, that’s not just the best place, I’d argue it is the only place for such an undertaking.
As the Minnesota Lynx were leaving shootaround on Tuesday, Danielle Robinson was asking me about the Barclays Center experience. What the locker rooms are like, whether I thought it would happen.
“It’s got to, right?”, she said, chatting in front of the Lynx team bus.
I’m with D-Rob on this one. It’s got to.
This Week in Women’s Basketball
You can play as Breanna Stewart in NBA2K, which is almost enough to get me back into video games. (When they make WNBA Jam, I won’t be able to resist.)
Great NPR look at other women’s leagues looking to follow the USWNT’s footsteps in soccer.
Ben Strauss has a good piece on how WNBA media is surging (and how much remains to be done).
Want more Lauren Cox stories? Of course you do.
Liz Cambage is fully herself publicly, and it’s what we need.
Loved this PJ Brown story on Adia Barnes’ shotblocking abilities.
Britni De La Cretaz continues to do brave, vital work, this one on Kobe Bryant’s role in women’s basketball.
Maddyn Johnstone-Thomas spent time with Aces assistant GM Christine Monjer.
Ava Wallace on Aerial Powers? Yes, please!
Jenn Hatfield looked into six different NCAA trips abroad to get a sense of what players and coaches hope to accomplish with them.
I spoke to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert for a half-hour on many topics, including New York!
Great podcast with UConn women’s basketball radio voice Bob Joyce.
Justin Carter wrote about the rise of Rebecca Allen.
Ben Rosof caught up with Seimone Augustus.
Miles Ehrlich worked Toni Morrison into his lede on WNBA activism.
And Ben Dull’s 12 Things is always worth your time.
Stat of the Week
Teaira McCowan isn’t just having a strong campaign for a rookie. She is neck-and-neck with 2017 Jonquel Jones for the best single-season rebounding percentage in league history. Take a look at the top 15. So much Cheryl Ford, Courtney Paris and, of course, Sylvia Fowles:
Five at The IX: Courtney Williams, Connecticut Sun
(Doug Feinberg of the AP and I caught up with Courtney after a recent Sun game in New York. It is ALWAYS fun.)
DOUG: Last game, fourth quarter you picked it up and helped them get the win. And today you were on fire. Was there anything different you noticed the last couple of games yourself?
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: I think I just took the momentum from the last game and it rolled over to this game. Got to my sand spots, and knocked outside until my team mates kept giving me the ball.
DOUG: I’ve covered you for seven years now, you always have a swagger about you.
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: Oh yes.
DOUG: And like, I won’t say the swagger is missing, but is it sort of the last couple of games you feel –
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: You saying my swagger was missing?
DOUG: Not that it’s been missing, but it just seems, last game before this game you’ve been —
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: Actually making shots. I was doing the same thing, taking the same shots, but the ball is just going through the basket.
HOWARD: Back in 2017 before a lot of teams … a lot of people believed in this team, you guaranteed a playoff spot, you went and got it. I’m wondering if you are finding another level right now with an eye on something even bigger than a playoff spot.
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: Oh, championship? You don’t want to say that?
HOWARD: No, no, it’s just —
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: You don’t want to put words in my mouth?
HOWARD MEGDAL: Yeah, no, I don’t want to.
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: That’s our goal… I mean, I think we always knew that we could win the championship. We know that we have all the pieces, it’s just a matter of getting over that hump, you know. We felt something the last couple of years, but we always knew that if we get teams in a series, nobody is banging with us. So I feel like that was always our mentality that we’re a championship team, we just have to get there and prove it.
HOWARD: In your mind is this the best team in the WNBA?
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: Yeah.
HOWARD: No doubt in your mind?
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: Of course!
DOUG: Is that the swagger?
COURTNEY WILLIAMS: [to Jonquel Jones, sitting next to her] That was a rhetorical question.