NEW YORK (AP) — Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot have won titles together playing overseas. The pair hope their championship pedigrees can help the New York Liberty win their first WNBA championship.
The Liberty made the biggest splash in the offseason by signing the two free agents and trading for Jonquel Jones, giving New York one of the most potent lineups in the league. Stewart and Vandersloot play together in Turkey, but are currently on break from the overseas league. They’ve also played on teams with Jones during the winter in Russia.
“I speak for myself and I believe Sloot, when I say we both wanted to play together in the WNBA and go after a WNBA championship together,” Stewart said during a press conference on Thursday at the Barclays Center. “It’s much better to be on her side than against her.”
The pair took less than maximum salaries of $228,000 to play together in New York so that the team could fit all of its stars under the league’s salary cap. They don’t see themselves as starting a trend of signing with teams that get financial discounts on top talent.
“I think what we’re setting a precedent for is to be willing to play with other great players and to want to win and to do whatever we can to make that happen,” Stewart said.
Stewart had spent her entire career in Seattle since the Storm drafted her No. 1 overall in 2016. She won championship with the team in 2018 and 2020.
The 28-year-old wing has averaged 20.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in her WNBA career. She missed the 2019 season with an Achilles tendon injury.
“Today is a historic day for the New York Liberty organization and fanbase,” said Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb. “Stewie and Sloot are winners and choosing the Liberty in free agency shows that we’re all in on our commitment to bring a championship to New York. Both players are among the league’s all-time greats, consummate teammates, and high-character individuals.”
Vandersloot had played with Chicago since the Sky drafted the Gonzaga guard third in 2011. She helped Chicago win their lone championship in 2021. Vandersloot, who is No. 3 all-time on the WNBA’s assist list, averaged 11.8 points and 6.5 assists for the Sky last season.
“I was a part of a first-time champion in the Chicago Sky. I do know how special that first time is,” Vandersloot said. “So to bring that first one for the Liberty, it is something special. There’s a lot of work to do before that.”
Coming to New York brings former UConn star Stewart closer to home. She grew up in Syracuse, which is an hour flight away. She’ll also have a shorter flight to Spain to visit relatives of her wife, Marta.
New York representatives, including coach Sandy Brondello and co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, met with Stewart in Turkey last week.
“At the beginning of the offseason you know we set a goal to really assemble the best possible team that we could in order to contend for a championship,” Tsai said. “I really think that we are in a position to do this.”
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