January 23, 2024
Jonquel Jones intends to return to the Liberty in 2024
Jones received interest from most teams in the WNBA
The New York Liberty’s main priority going into free agency this winter was to convince Jonquel Jones to return. After months away from Brooklyn, some dominant overseas play in China, and a 30th birthday, Jones has made her decision.
The Next can report that Jones’ intention is to return to the Liberty, despite receiving significant interest from across the entire WNBA, per her agent.
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This represents a vote of confidence for the Liberty and their continued pursuit of the franchise’s and the city’s elusive first WNBA championship. Two of the Liberty’s foundational players in Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney made their voices heard after last season, expressing how they would do anything and everything to get Jones back to Brooklyn in 2024.
“We know exactly how important and crucial [Jones] is to this,” Laney said during her exit interview in October. “I know that we’re going to do everything that we can to retain her and have her come back and continue the success of this team and reach the goal that we all have.”
Ionescu, who was vital in convincing Jones to choose New York last winter, wanted the 2021 MVP to take her time to reflect. But Ionescu also wanted Jones to know how much she matters to New York’s success, and what Jones’ presence on the roster meant to Ionescu personally. Ionescu made sure to have a chat with Jones before both players left New York following exit interviews.
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Ionescu described the purpose of that conversation as wanting to “have her understand how thankful I am for what she was able to do this year, how she was able to buy in and commit herself.”
“Obviously I feel for her. She’s been in this position many times of being just short of her goal, but I know we’re going to be able to win [a title] with her, and I know she’s going to understand that,” Ionescu continued. “And [I’m] just going to do everything I can to make sure she comes back next year and as is as happy as she can be.”
Jones’ probable return would allow the Liberty to retain both of their starting bigs, including reigning MVP Breanna Stewart, who the Liberty extended a core qualifying offer to on January 11.
Up next, the Liberty will have to find creative ways to balance their books while paying both MVPs acceptable salaries. Right now, the Liberty have around $636,554 in cap space, including the rookie contract of Leonie Fiebich, a 24 year-old do-it-all wing the Liberty expect to be on their roster in 2024.
With Fiebich presumably in the fold, the Liberty have approximately five more roster spots to fill up including both Jones and Stewart. The question going forward will be how the Liberty juggle paying their stars while finding players to help address their struggles defending the perimeter.
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Who could be a target? Jasmine Thomas has since retired. Jordin Canada could still be an option, but the Liberty would have to part with assets as Canada has also been cored by the Los Angeles Sparks.
With interest from the Atlanta Dream, who could offer her a starting role, Canada may not want to come off the bench at this point in her career. Could New York attempt to reunite with 3-and-D wing Rebecca Allen instead? What about Minnesota regular Bridget Carleton?
The Liberty also opted not to extend a reserved qualifying offer to 2020 tenth overall pick Jocelyn Willoughby. Willoughby became an unrestricted free agent on January 21, and the Liberty could opt to sign her to a league minimum ($76,535) and an unprotected training camp contract, now that she’s an unrestricted free agent.
But for now, the Liberty work on negotiating contracts with their two MVPs who are both on board to run it back.
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.