Jonquel Jones, the 2021 WNBA MVP, will re-sign with the New York Liberty on a two-year protected deal and keep the super-team's starting five intact for another go at the franchise's first WNBA championship, Jackie Powell of The Next reported on Wednesday.
Jones' agent said earlier this month she intended to re-sign in New York. Powell reported the star signed a multi-year deal to make the city her year-round home.
The 6-foot-6 center averaged 11.3 points and 8.4 rebounds in her first year in New York and earned Commissioner's Cup MVP in the Liberty’s win. She was an unrestricted free agent for the first time in her career after the Connecticut Sun used their core designation on her in 2022.
In her exit interview, she told reporters she was "definitely trending" toward coming back to play for New York. But Jones has not shied away from acknowledging her quest for a WNBA championship after now three empty trips, and could have decided New York's super-team wasn't poised to do it.
Her commitment is the first step in the Liberty's march back to the Finals. The franchise offered reigning MVP Breanna Stewart the core designation to keep her in town at least one more year. Starting point guard Courtney Vandersloot is signed through 2024, while Jones and starting guards Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu are signed through 2025.
Jones and the Liberty cannot finalize the contract until Thursday when the signing window opens. The Liberty have $703,803 of room in a $1.46 million salary cap, per Her Hoop Stats data.
Jones chasing a championship after 3 Finals losses
Jones, 30, wanted a change after six seasons of coming close to a title with the Connecticut Sun. They were minutes away from a title in 2019 against the Washington Mystics and made it back in 2022, falling to the Aces in four games. Her Sun teams, notably the winningest of any in the league dating to 2017, also fell short in the 2021 semifinals as the No. 1 seed.
As the core designated player, she had the right to veto any trade and asked to head to New York last offseason. It was the first move Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb made to cross off the names on his white board, building the WNBA’s first super-team via free agency.
She dealt with a foot injury early in the season and didn't settle into her role until the All-Star break, after which she averaged a double-double. She consistently kept the Liberty in playoff games with double-doubles in all but the final two games and was often their most effective scorer.
New York fell in four games to the Las Vegas Aces, despite the reigning champions being without two starters on the road due to injury.
“I get mad, like f***, how many times am I gonna come to the Finals and not win?” Jones said ahead of Game 4 of the 2023 Finals loss. “That’s why I just put it all out there on the line, because at the end of the day, that’s all you can do. And just, you try to bring your teammates with you and get that same level of energy.”
The Liberty are the last remaining original franchise to not win a title. They've reached the Finals five times, including four of the first six contested. Jones, the No. 6 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft, was named 2017 Most Improved Player and the 2018 Sixth Woman of the Year. She's averaging 13.2 ppg and 8.3 rpg shooting 51.3% in her seven-year career.
The Liberty return from their runner-up team all their starters. It's the bench that will experience the most upheaval.