In her WNBA All-Star Game debut Sabrina Ionescu had 19 points, six rebounds and six assists. She also won the skills challenge—first New York Liberty player to do so—the day before the big game. Her team, Team Wilson, which also included fellow Liberty player Natasha Howard, even got the win. In her third WNBA season, Ionescu, who was also named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for June, is finally living up to being a No.1 draft pick.
While Ionescu has been achieving triple-triples, the Liberty continue to search for consistency. During last week’s three-game West Coast road trip, the team scored a huge win over the Las Vegas Aces—currently sitting number two in the league—but dropped close games to the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury. Heading into this week’s home games, New York was not in a playoff position.
Following the loss to the Mercury, Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello praised Ionescu and Howard, but noted, “We still need some energy coming from the bench.” Brondello did say the team is getting more rhythm the longer they play together.
“We’re just going to continue to get better and control the controllables and do what we can every single practice, every single game,” said Ionescu about the team’s goals. “We’re not really looking too far ahead on the standings and where we’re at and wins or losses. It’s really just about where we’re at in the moment and how we can continue to get better and learn through the process.”
The Mercury game was played the day after the Aces game, and back-to-backs are an ongoing challenge of the WNBA. Brondello said the team built momentum as the game progressed. While she was disappointed in the outcome, she’s proud of the effort. “I know that we’re in the right direction,” Brondello said. “We’re still a young group, and we’re growing and learning together with every experience that we get.”
Both Ionescu and Howard said they are excited for the second half of the season. Hopefully, the All-Star experience in Chicago, which included some interesting new elements—a four-point shot line, a 20-second shot clock and automatic points for free throws during most of the game—brought fresh excitement.
The safe return to the U.S. of Brittney Griner, who was named an honorary All-Star starter, remains a priority. It was the final All-Star Game for Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles, who have announced their retirements following this season.