Liberty has experience rebounding, plus Tom Brady and LeBron James have connected with the Aces

LAS VEGAS — It’s the basketball playoffs, and New York Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello knows her team can and has been better than the WNBA Finals in Game 1 of their loss to the Las Vegas Aces The team played better. But Liberty plans to learn from it and respond, just as they have done all season.

“We haven’t lost two games in a row all season,” Brondello said Sunday. “We’ll know we’re going to react the right way and I believe in these players and we’ll continue to compete and fight.”

New York lost eight games in the regular season, and only one of those losses came in the mini-set. After losing their first game, they rattled off four wins and then lost two of four games in nine days in June. After all those losses, they won their next game by an average of 14.8 points, including games following the regular season finals and semifinals.

Liberty lost the first game of the semifinals by 15 points, then rebounded to win three straight games and reach the finals for the first time since 2002. In the second game, New York defeated the Suns by 7 points at home and swept the two games. road. It was their lowest margin of victory this season.

Sunday’s 17-point loss to the Aces tied their worst deficit of the season. Las Vegas won 98-81 in the first meeting of the year in June.

“They did what they were supposed to do,” Brondlow said. “Now our goal is to try and steal a game. And then take it back to New York.”

Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson (left) and New York Liberty guard Kao during the first half of Game 1 of the 2023 WNBA Finals on Oct. 8, 2023 in Las Vegas Teni van der Sloot competes for the ball.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

Mitchell Super Arena almost immediately sold out for three potential games after Liberty locked up its spot last week. The 10,300-capacity arena is one of the rowdiest in the WNBA, with fans waving white towels and roaring as the Aces shot 60 percent from the field and led by 22 points in the third quarter. The Liberty shot 36.8% from the field, missed all four three-pointers, and had three assists on seven field goals, while the Aces made nine field goals and had seven assists.

“In the second half, the ball stopped and got a little stuck, which made it easier for them to clog up J.J. (Jonquil Jones) or myself in the paint,” Brianna Stewart said. “We just have to keep moving forward and trust what got us to this point.”

In the previous five games, including the Commissioner’s Cup, the Aces had won Games 1 and 4. New York won two straight in the August series, starting with a 38-point victory at home. The second victory was a Commissioner’s Cup victory by 19 points. Two days later, Las Vegas won by 13 points. The last game was played in late August, with New York winning 94-85.

Game 2 will be played on Wednesday, and if necessary, the best-of-five series will be moved to Barclays Center for Games 3 and 4. Barclays opened the upper bowl area for ticket sales, just as it did when Las Vegas was in town earlier this year.

Commissioner responds to Hamby’s discrimination complaint

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Sunday that she will let lawyers complete their work before making any specific comments on whether the league will further punish the Aces in the DeRika Hamby discrimination case.

Hamby, the Aces’ starting forward last season, filed a gender discrimination complaint against the Aces and WNBA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in late September. The Aces traded Hamby, a 2015 first-round pick, to the Los Angeles Sparks in January while she was pregnant with her second child. She said she was traded because of her pregnancy and that head coach Becky Harmon and the Aces allegedly retaliated against her after she told them, creating an “abusive and hostile” work environment.

“I won’t comment on too many details because this is obviously litigation that is currently pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” Engelbert said. “We will cooperate fully. “We will see if there is new information that we did not have originally. “

Hamby, a two-time Sixth Player of the Year, went public with his allegations for the first time since the trade was announced. She said the Aces falsely accused her of signing a two-year contract last summer knowing she was pregnant and traded her because they didn’t believe she would be ready for the 2023 season. She publicly announced her pregnancy during the championship parade in September, gave birth to the baby in March, and played for the Sparks in the season opener in May.

Dearica Hamby and her son Legend during Los Angeles Sparks media day on May 4, 2023.  (Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

In her complaint, she said the WNBA failed to properly investigate her allegations. It also provides a timeline of pregnancy news within the organization and how she heard the news from Harmon that she was being traded. She said the organization tried to obtain private OB/GYN medical records after she was traded, but when she made the information public, she was “cut off” from her former teammates.

“As with any pending litigation in my past or present life, we will withhold any details until we know for sure that the allegations may be different than what we saw when we conducted the investigation in the spring,” Engelbert said.

The WNBA investigated and announced days before the season that Hammon had been suspended two games without pay for violating the league’s workplace respect policy. The league declined to disclose details of the investigation, telling Yahoo Sports in May that “we feel it would be inappropriate to comment beyond that” and that she violated policy.

“The investigation also did not result in any tangible remedy for me,” Hamby said in the lawsuit, via CBS Sports. “I do not believe the investigation sought to uncover the truth about the allegations that I was discriminated against because of my pregnancy, and I believe Defendant WNBA, LLC failed to properly investigate my allegations in retaliation for my public statements.”

Harmon denied Hubby’s public accusations in May. The WNBA Players Association and the Aces said they were disappointed with the findings for different reasons.

Tom Brady appears on Celebrity Row

The Aces x Tom Brady collaboration began more than a year ago when Brady attended a game at Michelob Ultra Arena and Plum made eye contact with her favorite athlete on the sidelines. The ace star defender tried to play it cool but ultimately decided to “screw it” and approached him.

“I shook him off, gave him a big hug, and I said, ‘Man, you’re a dog, I love you,'” Plumb said after the May 2022 game.

Then “Plum Dawg” growled at him. Like the sand barks for her in important moments. It’s one thing; just let it be.

The connection became official when seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady announced in March that he had purchased a minority stake in the team. WNBA team owners approved the deal last week, although Engelbert has already commented on the deal, saying it will be completed.

Brady sat courtside with Aces majority owner Mark Davis during Game 1 on Sunday.

“I looked at him and I said, ‘It’s time for you to come out,'” Plumb said after the game. “But what I like about him is he always says, ‘You already know this.'”

Brady announced on the big screen, complete with a goat icon, to loud cheers. LeBron James and Mark Wahlberg were also in attendance for Game 1. Ashanti performed at halftime and Jordin Sparks sang the national anthem.

Aja Wilson praises ‘mutual respect’ among NBA stars

James can be seen taking game photos from a courtside seat near the Liberty bench. He later shared a photo of himself with WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes on Instagram, along with statistics from the Aces’ big win.

He also featured Wilson in the player version of LeBron XXI and was awarded the two-time MVP title. The black and gold style is made of suede and velvet. The two superstars are close and have been since Wilson starred at South Carolina.

LeBron James and Cheryl Swoopes sit courtside during Game 1 of the 2023 WNBA Finals at Michelob Ultra Arena on October 8, 2023 in Las Vegas.  (Candace Ward/USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James and Cheryl Swoopes sit courtside during Game 1 of the 2023 WNBA Finals at Michelob Ultra Arena on October 8, 2023 in Las Vegas. (Candace Ward/USA TODAY Sports) (USA Today USPW/Reuters)

“It’s so cool to see the mutual respect we have for each other,” Wilson said. “We get a lot of trash on the internet from very, very mean people. So to be able to have someone’s favorite player still reach out and offer support is really critical.”

James’ Los Angeles Lakers will face the Brooklyn Nets in an NBA preseason game in Las Vegas on Monday night. Members of the Nets, who share the same team owner as the Liberty, were also in attendance.

“Always shout out to everyone who comes out to support us,” Wilson said. “We try to give back in any way we can, but, yeah, I mean, they love to watch a good basketball game, heck, come to a WNBA game.”

Las Vegas Double Booking

It’s a big long weekend for Sabrina Ionescu’s family and friends. The Liberty guard played in her first WNBA Finals game Sunday afternoon. Across the highway Monday night, his fiancé, Las Vegas Raiders offensive lineman Hroniss Grasu, was watching “Monday Night Football” against the Green Bay Packers.

“We’re able to support each other because we’re all professionals, but that doesn’t happen often,” Ionescu told Yahoo Sports.

Ionescu said about 30 of her family members traveled from California to attend the double show. They will also play in Game 2 of the Finals on Wednesday night. She is from Walnut Creek and Grasu is from Los Angeles. The couple also had a large contingent at the WNBA All-Star Game in July, with Grasu joining her at a WNBA Live event and walking the orange carpet.

“We had a lot of family come in. It was a packed house,” Grasu told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week. “All the hotels were booked by the Grasu-Ionescu family. “

The Oregon State alums started dating in 2019 and got engaged in January. The wedding is planned for the upcoming offseason. Ionescu was the Liberty’s No. 1 overall pick in 2020, and Grasu was a 2015 third-round pick of the Chicago Bears who spent the past several NFL seasons in Las Vegas.

Ionescu said they’ve been playing long distance mostly over the past six months, while she’s in the middle of the season and Grasu has participated in OTAs and NFL preseason games. She said she was happy to “finally know it was over” for the time being.

“We’ve been talking and supporting each other as we go through our seasons, and now that we’re finally together, it’s really good,” Ionescu said. “He’s been training all day. I’ve been practicing all day. “After six months, it feels like our lives are finally coming together. “

Ionescu’s season will end on October 20 at the latest, regardless of whether he wins the championship or not. In July, she told Yahoo Sports that she was focused on this season and wasn’t sure what she would do with basketball during the WNBA offseason.

She has never played abroad and has earned off-court income through a partnership with Nike, which recently released her signature shoe, the Sabrina I. She also serves part-time as the Director of Sports and Culture for the Oregon Ducks.

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