On Aug. 22, the New York Liberty released an update on Sabrina Ionescu’s injury. This year’s WNBA top draft pick suffered an injury to her left ankle on July 31 during a game against the Atlanta Dream and subsequently left the wubble to be evaluated by specialists. The release noted that surgery will not be needed and her prognosis is good.
That’s great news for the future, but for this season it’s pretty grim. No date has been set for Ionescu’s return. Even if she is deemed fit to play within the next week, she must return to the wubble and spend time in isolation before returning to the team. The Liberty has already played 14 games in a 22-game regular season and sits at the bottom of the WNBA standings.
On Saturday, the Liberty dropped an 82–65 game against the Connecticut Sun. Kia Nurse led the offense with 17 points. Kiah Stokes, Layshia Clarendon and Jazmine Jones also scored in double figures, but were no match for WNBA veterans DeWanna Bonner, Alyssa Thomas, Briann January and Jasmine Thomas, who combined to give the Sun 66 points.
“It’s really continuing to find consistency—individual and collectively,” said Liberty coach Walt Hopkins about what the team will focus on for the remainder of the season. “That’s going to come from us continuing to be hyper-focused on each individual. Where are the places where we can get each player the ball where they’re most comfortable.”
It is a reasonable goal for a team unaccustomed to playing together. When you have a veteran squad—even one that hasn’t played together a lot—the players are often able to settle into a rhythm more quickly because they have done it throughout their careers. The Liberty is a team with seven rookies. There are only three players who’ve previously played with the Liberty plus Clarendon.
Hopkins praised Jones, saying, “She’s been so solid and so steady. It’s really just a matter of her continuing to get these reps and the experience necessary. That’s the case with the whole team…Our focus is the long-term.” He also noted that Clarendon “carries a lot.”
A team needs more than one strong veteran presence, especially when that veteran is new to the team. It’s one thing to build a team around the top draft pick, but when the supporting cast is predominantly rookies and the top draft pick suffers an injury, battling against the level of play in the WNBA is very rough.
The Liberty is in action tonight against the Dallas Wings and on Saturday vs. the Las Vegas Aces.