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WNBA: Liberty, Mystics open season with 2023 playoff rematch

WNBA: MAY 07 New York Liberty at Chicago Sky

Just like last year, the New York Liberty will open the season at the Washington Mystics (7 p.m. ET, WNBA League Pass). However, unlike last year, don’t expect the local squad to upset the super team from NYC.

In 2023, the newly-assembled Liberty, swirling in superteam talk, looked out of sorts against a motivated Mystics team eager to make a statement. But the result, a 80-64 Washington win, was not a precursor of things to come, as injuries sunk DC’s season while New York melded into the team they were projected to be. That proved true during the first round playoff series between the two teams. Although the games were hard-fought, New York swept Washington, 2-0. Since then, the divergent paths of the two teams have become only more stark. The Liberty sit at No. 2 in Swish Appeal’s power rankings, whereas the Mystics rank last.

New York should enter Tuesday’s opener with confidence and cohesion, with the fully healthy and star-studded squad—led by reigning MVP Breanna Stewart, 2023-24 WCBA International MVP Jonquel Jones, 3-point sharpshooter Sabrina Ionescu, the do-it-all Betnijah Laney-Hamilton and floor general extraordinaire Courtney Vandersloot—ready to roll. New York’s bench remains a bit of a question. Last season, the team lacked reliable depth, and now they’re without the sweet stylings of Marine Johannès, who is sitting out the season to prepare to represent France at the 2024 Olympics. However, Kayla Thornton returns to provide a physical presence, while Kennedy Burke, back in the WNBA for the first time since 2022, when she played for the Mystics, offers some off-the-bench scoring pop.

Jonquel Jones enters her second season with the New York Liberty,
Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Mystics, in contrast, still are searching for their post-Elena Delle Donne identity, with two recent trades confirming the evolving character of the team. A limited Shakira Austin, who remains on a minutes restriction as she continues to recover from last season’s hip injury, doesn’t help things for DC. However, expect this team to fight, as a team leader Brittney Sykes will allow nothing less. The likes of Emily Engstler, coming off a standout stint with Athletes Unlimited, and DiDi Richards, the former Liberty draft pick who contributed for the Sydney Flames during the 2023-24…

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