NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Liberty are bringing their core group back and trying to add another piece with prized free agent Nneka Ogwumike, while Seattle signed Skylar Diggins-Smith as WNBA free agency tipped off Thursday.
The Liberty, who made it to the WNBA Finals last season before losing to the Las Vegas Aces, met with Ogwumike, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because on-going negotiations were private.
Ogwumike watched the Nets-Suns game courtside on Wednesday night with Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Betnijah Laney.
Ogwumike has spent her entire career with the Los Angeles Sparks since getting drafted No. 1 by the team in 2012, but said she was going to play somewhere else this season.
New York assigned a franchise tag to Stewart a few weeks ago and is set to bring back free agent center Jonquel Jones, according to a person familiar with the deal. That person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made on her signing.
ESPN was the first to report on Ogwumike and Jones.
Diggins-Smith returns to the league after giving birth to her second child and sitting out last season. The six-time All-Star, who last played with the Phoenix Mercury, has averaged 16.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in her career and reunites with fellow Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd.
“Joining the Seattle Storm is the ideal next step in my basketball journey. The organization’s dedication to its players and the progression of the league is commendable,” Diggins-Smith said. “I’m laser-focused for the upcoming season. Stepping onto the court alongside Jewell, benefiting from the leadership of Noelle Quinn and feeling the energy of the Seattle Storm fans is a combination that I am confident will lead to success.”
Other moves made on the first day of free agency included Dallas re-signing Satou Sabally and Kalani Brown. Sabally, who was a restricted free agent, averaged career highs in points (18.6), rebounds (8.1) and assists (4.4) last season. Brown is coming off a career year in which she averaged 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds. The Wings return virtually their entire team that lost in the WNBA semifinals to the Aces.
The two-time defending champion Aces brought back free agents Kiah Stokes and Sydney Colson. They also signed free agent Megan Gustafson.
The Atlanta Dream signed eight-time All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist Tina Charles, along with guard Aerial Powers. The Dream also kept Nia Coffey with a new deal.
Charles brings experience to a young Atlanta squad coming off its first playoff berth in five years. The 2012 WNBA MVP currently ranks fourth in league history with 7,115 points and second with 3,640 rebounds, averaging 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
“There is a mutual respect between Tina and I because of the years we spent as teammates, and her competitiveness and desire to win will be an added boost for our team,” Dream coach Tanisha Wright said. “In all candor, I look forward to now telling her what to do instead of vice versa.”
The Mercury signed Natasha Cloud, who is leaving Washington after spending her entire career with the Mystics since getting drafted in the second round in 2015. She will bolster the Mercury with her tough defense and playmaking skills.
The 31-year-old Cloud averaged a career-best 12.7 points and 6.2 assists for Washington last season. The Mystics signed Karlie Samuelson and Didi Richards.
Courtney Williams and Alanna Smith signed with the Minnesota Lynx. Williams had a stellar season with Chicago last year, averaging 10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and a career-best 6.3 assists.
Other moves announced included Rachel Banham signing with Connecticut, Katie Lou Samuelson and Damiris Dantas with Indiana and Lindsay Allen with Chicago. Los Angeles re-signed Layshia Clarendon and Rae Burrell.