Former MVP Stewart leaves Storm for Liberty

Former MVP Stewart leaves Storm for Liberty

In one of the biggest free agent moves in WNBA history, former league MVP breanna stewart has decided to play for him New York Libertyleaving the seattle storm after winning two championships in seven years, she announced Wednesday on Twitter.

Wednesday marked the first day WNBA free agents can officially sign contracts and offers for the 2023 season, though sources told ESPN that Stewart is still working out the details of the deal she will sign with New York.

Stewart made charter flights a key factor in his free agency, league sources told ESPN. He was a topic in conversations with all four teams he met with: Liberty, Storm, minnesota bobcat Y Washington Mystics — to see where she stands on the issue, which she believes is critical to player health, safety and performance.

Although neither team was able to make a direct promise on the issue due to salary cap rules, sources said Stewart believes she has elevated the issue to a level of importance that meaningful conversations will continue for the foreseeable future.

“Stewie’s free agency is the story of the WNBA at a turning point – the players understand its value, the potential of the WNBA and are enthusiastic partners in growing a business that has incredible momentum,” Stewart’s agent said. Wasserman Tails, Lindsay Kagawa. ESPN in a statement Wednesday. “She owned the process and the responsibility that comes with power in ways that will hopefully affect how smart free agents of all genders approach similar opportunities.”

Stewart was drafted No. 1 by the Storm in 2016 and won two WNBA titles with Seattle, also winning the league MVP trophy in 2018. The 28-year-old has averaged 20.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in his career, having missed the 2019 season with an Achilles tendon injury.

The addition of Stewart, a Syracuse native who played at the collegiate level at UConn, moves Liberty into championship contention as she joins the No. 1 pick of 2020. sabrina ionescu and recently acquired jonquel jonesthe 2021 WNBA MVP, in what appears to be the second “superteam” created this offseason.

Last weekend, the defending champion Vegas Aces added two-time league MVP Candace Parker to a roster that already included chelsea gray, a’ja wilson Y kelsey plum.

The Liberty has long been a proponent of charter air travel, and owner Joseph Tsai tweeted in October 2021 that he would work with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to resolve the issue. In 2022, the Liberty was fined $500,000 for chartering flights for the team without league approval.

Unlike the 30 teams in the NBA, the 12 teams in the WNBA fly on commercial airlines, except in rare circumstances. The WNBA and its owners have decided that no team can charter, even if its ownership can afford it, unless all teams can afford the charter. Travel rental for all teams is estimated to cost close to $30 million.

WNBA owners would have to hold a vote in the board of governors to make changes to the system. Since the issue is collectively negotiated, the players’ association would also have to review it. In the most recent CBA negotiations, the players chose to raise the issue of increased compensation, among other things.

The issue of private air travel has come to the fore this winter because of the assumption, the sources said, that mercury phoenix hub Brittney Griner will have to fly private due to security concerns after she was released from a Russian prison in December. Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport last February after Russian authorities said she had vape canisters filled with cannabis oil in her luggage. She was held for nine months before her release in December as part of a prisoner exchange brokered by President Joe Biden’s administration.

If Griner were to fly privately, the WNBA would have to address whether her Mercury teammates would fly privately with her. That would raise the question of fairness for the other teams in the league.

Griner, an unrestricted free agent, has indicated she wants to play for the Mercury in 2023 but has yet to request special travel accommodations from the league, sources said.

Stewart, who played with Griner on the US national teams and tweeted about her nearly every day of Griner’s incarceration, raised the issue of WNBA-wide charters in a Jan. 22 tweet. She tweeted that she would be willing to contribute money. from her name, likeness agreements, social media posts, and production hours to help ensure that the entire WNBA can travel in private “in a manner that prioritizes the health and safety of players” and “in ultimately result in a better product.”

Last week, the guard for the Brooklyn Nets Kyrie Irvingwho is vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, expressed his support for WNBA players having charter flights to travel.

“I wish it was as easy as getting it tomorrow, but business takes a bit of patience and our W ladies have been patient long enough so we definitely have to do something,” she said. “And I’m with them no matter how much it takes, per se. I think we could all collectively come together and make something very doable happen.”

Losing Stewart in the same offseason that franchise icon Sue Bird retired is a huge blow to the Storm, who only have two players: jewel loyd Y mercedes russell — under contract for the 2023 season.

Seattle is one of three teams still in play for the former chicago sky Guard courtney vanderslootwho announced Tuesday that he would not return to the franchise with which he won a championship in 2021.

ESPN previously reported that Vandersloot was considering the Storm, Liberty and Lynx along with Sky and that their free agency could influence Stewart’s decision. Vandersloot, who plays with Stewart for Turkish team Fenerbahce, is expected to announce his decision this week, the sources said.

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