When 6-foot-10 Han Xu, a star on China’s national team, was drafted by the New York Liberty in 2019, expectations were high. Her rookie season took place at a time when the Liberty was in the process of reshaping the team, so she didn’t get a lot of playing time. She skipped the 2020 WNBA wubble season and took off the 2021 season to prepare for the Olympics, so when she arrived in Liberty training camp this season, no one quite knew what to expect.
It turns out Xu was ready to fulfill her potential. As the Liberty has continued to struggle—1–7 at the bottom of the WNBA standings heading into last night’s game against the Indiana Fever—Xu has been a consistent and outstanding performer. She was the team’s top scorer in the Liberty’s rough 92–61 loss against the Seattle Storm.
The Liberty will be back on home court at Barclays Center on Sunday and Tuesday for games against the Minnesota Lynx. Unfortunately, multiple Liberty players continue to be out with injuries. Lorela Cubaj is out due to concussion protocol. Betnijah Laney has a knee injury. Didi Richards—who was among the WNBA players to appear in the recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition—is nursing a hamstring. Lastly, Jocelyn Willoughby, trying to return from a torn Achilles tendon, suffered a knee injury that will keep her out for about six weeks.
Meanwhile, former Liberty player Becky Hammon, now the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces, is showing NBA teams what they missed in passing her over for head coaching positions. The Aces sit atop the league and are looking dominant. The Connecticut Sun is also strong, despite the loss of Jasmine Thomas, one of the team’s most consistent players, to a torn ACL. The Atlanta Dream, under the leadership of first-time head coach Tanisha Wright, is looking reinvigorated.
While the WNBA and its players continue to address social justice issues, the most pressing issue league-wide is the ongoing detention of Brittney Griner in Russia. Players have been wearing hoodies with her picture on the front. Dawn Staley, coach of the reigning NCAA Champion University of South Carolina and Griner’s coach at last summer’s Olympics, has been a consistent voice for Griner’s release. Hashtags calling for Griner’s freedom proliferate on Twitter. Hopefully, there will be a positive turn of events in the near future.