January 31, 2024
Inside the agreed-upon Jonquel Jones pact with New York Liberty
Details on length, size of contract and what it means for New York's roster
By the time free agents can sign contracts on Thursday February 1, Jonquel Jones will officially be on the New York Liberty’s books for two years on a protected deal. As The Next previously reported, Jones decided to commit to New York earlier this month.
That gives the Liberty control of her contract through 2025, a critical moment for the WNBA. The players have the right to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement this coming November, which would trigger a new CBA following the 2025 season. (Nothing would stop the two sides from agreeing to a new deal sooner than that, of course.)
A league source explained that a Jones deal to return to New York is “about the same” amount in 2024 that she got from the Liberty last season on the final season of the two-year deal that she signed with the Connecticut Sun. Re-signing with New York wasn’t about trying to earn the most money that Jones could but rather about allowing the Liberty to have enough cap space to successfully run it back and give New York the best chance at winning their first WNBA championship.
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Jones and her fiancé appeared out in New York on Monday night for the premiere of Shattered Glass: A WNBPA Story, the documentary that featured Jones, Liberty teammate Breanna Stewart and WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike. Around halfway through the documentary, Jones spoke about her hopes, goals and dreams and what she believes she can accomplish being in New York.
“I daydream all the time,” she said in the film. “I think about New York City just like, going crazy, a championship parade and having people line the streets and cheering. And having my lady next to me and she’s smiling and having like a cigar in the corner of my mouth, and a championship hat on and some shades, and just like vibing. Those are the things I think about.
“I’ve never done that before so I don’t know how that feels. And I’ve been chasing that feeling for a long time. When I step on the court, I think about those feelings and I remember those moments of like, you know, of falling short and I use it as inspiration. I use it as like that extra thrust that I need to just help me to be as competitive as possible.”
After falling short of a WNBA championship a third time this past October, Jones will be extra motivated to get the unfinished business of a WNBA championship complete not only for her but for the franchise she plays for. Those are moments that not only Jones manifests, but what the Liberty organization has been yearning for for so long.
In 2024, the pressure Jones and the Liberty face will be even steeper than it was in 2023. Expectations for the New York “super team” in its second season together will be even higher. And while the Liberty were guided by the even keeled principles of head coach Sandy Brondello, it was hard not think about how much was expected of the Liberty’s newly constructed roster.
“It was tough at first, I think everybody was saying ‘superteam’,” Jones also said during the documentary. “I’d do media and stuff and I’d be like ‘oh yeah they’re saying super team, but we don’t really feel the pressure of a super team’ and I was feeling the pressure of them calling us a super team. The stakes are as high as they’ll ever be.”
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Questions remain filling out the rest of the roster
With the stakes so high, the Liberty’s front office continues to consider who they can add to their bench to support Jones, the cored Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu, Courtney Vandersloot, Betnijah Laney and Kayla Thornton.
A league source told The Next that the Liberty’s shopping list for the final three roster spots since Nyara Sabally and presumably Leonie Fiebich will be on roster consist of a backup ball handler, a backup center and then a versatile player who can play and most importantly defend multiple positions.
New York could have approximately $424,554 in cap space for signing Stewart, and these three final players. While a Jordin Canada sign-and-trade deal with the Sparks looks incredibly difficult to accomplish when there isn’t a starting spot on New York for Canada in 2024, there remains a limited list of WNBA free agents that fill those needs that the Liberty can get at a cheaper rate.
For instance there’s Ruthy Hebard, the backup forward from the Sky who is an unrestricted free agent, who has a lot of history with not only Liberty star Ioenscu but also with New York assistant coach Olaf Lange. He coached her in 2020 and 2021. Hebard is someone who will be cheaper to sign than Stefanie Dolson, but who also won’t halt Sabally’s development and game reps on the Liberty’s depth chart. New York sees Sabally as part of their future. Plus, Ionescu has always wanted to play at the pro level with Hebard since their days at Oregon ended abruptly due to a global pandemic.
Then there’s DiDi Richards, who got interest from both the Liberty and the Mystics. She could be an option. But Richards might be looking for more stability and a greater chance of making a WNBA roster, and with Elena Delle Donne probably not returning to Washington and Natasha Cloud’s status in the air, the reunion that Liberty fans wanted might not happen.
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Written by Jackie Powell
Jackie Powell covers the New York Liberty and runs social media and engagement strategy for The Next. She also has covered women's basketball for Bleacher Report and her work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Harper's Bazaar and SLAM. She also self identifies as a Lady Gaga stan, is a connoisseur of pop music and is a mental health advocate.