The team gathered for their first shoot-around to begin their WNBA preseason slate, with their first game against the Chinese National Team.
While the Liberty will again call the Westchester County Center their home for a second consecutive season, new owner Joe Tsai – also the Brooklyn Nets minority owner, who will gain majority ownership in 2021 – is motivated to continue growing ties between the Liberty and Brooklyn.
“If there’s an opportunity for the team to play more games at Barclays Center, I would definitely welcome it, but it’s not entirely my decision,” Tsai acknowledged before the Liberty defeated the team from China, 89-71. “Hhopefully we can work out some things where the team could get better exposure in bigger venues. And Barclays Center, I think, is a perfect venue for the New York Liberty.”
The team now practices at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, where they also held training camp. Moments before Tsai discussed his desire for the Liberty to call Brooklyn home following the 2019 season, he said the Westchester County Center, which holds roughly 5,000 people in comparison to Barclays’ 19,000-seat capacity, isn’t ideal moving forward.
“The size of the venue is limited by about 3,000 seats,” he explained. “Plus, it’s a place where it’s kind of hard to get to and not that accessible to the fans. That’s why I said we want to improve that situation and am exploring all possibilities.”
The Liberty do have one regular season game scheduled at Barclays Center later this year, when they host the defending WNBA Champion Seattle Storm on August 11.
As for their 18-point win over China, the game also marked the birth of a new era on the basketball court, with the team showcasing 2019 second overall pick Asia Durr and second-round selection Han Xu, a 6-foot-9 Chinese native, who made her debut with much fanfare.
Xu – along with 2018 first-round selection Kia Nurse – led the Libs with 19 points each.
“I hope I can be an inspiring player and motivate people to come out and watch games, and really bring some attention to women’s basketball,” Xu said post-game.
The team also returns a collection of core Liberty standouts, like perennial All-Star Tina Charles, Bria Hartley, Kiah Nurse, Epiphanny Prince and Shavonte Zellous, all of whom weren’t at the Brooklyn game due to postseason commitments overseas.
But at full strength, the team hopes to return to title contenders, where they stood from 2015-2017 with the best record in the Eastern Conference each season.
“I like our team,” said second-year head coach Katie Smith. “I thought everybody was aggressive and that, at the end of the day, is what we need.”