Guard/forward Jocelyn Willoughby Credit: WNBA photo

Season 26 of the WNBA kicks off tomorrow, and the excitement is palpable. For some, it will be a rookie season, for some a swan song and for others a long-awaited comeback. During the off-season, the WNBA pulled off an incredible capital raise to fuel investment in long-term transformation of the league. There are new corporate partners and interesting opportunities for the players.

Some familiar faces are back in the WNBA’s orbit, with Becky Hammon taking on the position of head coach of the Las Vegas Aces after eight years as an assistant coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. She assumes the helm of a team that has shown impressive results and has players eager to take the crown.

This will be the final season in the illustrious career of Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx. It will likely be the final season for Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm, who toyed with retirement after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal last year but decided to return to the Storm for a shot at a fifth WNBA title.

There will be new and familiar faces on the New York Liberty roster. Han Xu, who was drafted with much fanfare in 2019, sat out the wubble season in 2020 and spent last summer focused on the Chinese national team. The Liberty will need her presence in the post, as top draft pick Nyara Sabally is sitting out the season due to injury and third-year center Kylee Shook will miss this year due to personal reasons.

Guard/forward Jocelyn Willoughby returns from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in training camp last year. Also, back in uniform is guard Asia Durr, the Liberty’s top draft pick in 2019. Plagued by injury her rookie season, she worked hard to be in top shape for the 2020 season, but contracted a severe case of COVID-19, from which her recovery was long and difficult. Cleared to play several months ago, she arrived in training camp eager to resume her professional career.

“I’m having so much fun just being back and being around people and great teammates,” said Durr on Liberty media day. “One thing that’s been challenging post-COVID is the brain fog, confusion and stuff like that, but I have great teammates that are there to help me think through it and just push through. It’s been a journey, but I’m thankful to be here.”

The Liberty opens its season on Saturday at Barclays Center against the Connecticut Sun.

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