In what has been a WNBA offseason that could upend the standings next season, nothing looms as large as the free agency of former MVP and two-time champion Breanna Stewart.
And her decision could hinge on charter flights.
WNBA players must fly commercial airlines during the regular season — the WNBA CBA requires it. Some owners want to pay for charter flights, but because not every team would it is banned because the league believes it would create an unfair advantage (when New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai did it anyway in the second half of the 2021 season he was hit with a $500,000 fine). This has become a hot topic around the WNBA, with players, coaches and others pushing to get the kind of treatment commonplace in most high-level professional sports.
There are frontrunners to land Stewart in free agency, she will meet with the Seattle Storm (who she has played her entire career with), New York Liberty, Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics, reports ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
There have been some other big trades and moves in the WNBA offseason, here are a few highlights:
• The New York Liberty look like the big winners of a massive three-team that shook out like this:
Connecticut Sun receive: Tyasha Harris, Rebecca Allen, 2023 No. 6 pick
Dallas Wings receive: Crystal Dangerfield, Natasha Howard
New York Liberty receive: Jonquel Jones, Kayla Thornton
Jones is the 2021 WNBA MVP and picturing her setting picks then rolling to the rim for Sabrina Ionescu could set up one of the most unstoppable plays in the league. In addition, the Liberty freed up cap space in the move and they can now offer free agent Stewart a max contract, potentially setting up a superteam that would be an instant title favorite.
This was also a good trade for Dallas, Howard is an excellent fit for them. It’s a little harder to love for Connecticut, a team that was a contender with Jones and now, while they may be more versatile, don’t feel like that level of threat. The money the Sun saved they can use to keep unrestricted free agent Brionna Jones (they cored Jones, which is essentially a franchise tag).
• The Dallas Wings traded Allisha Gray to Atlanta for two first-round picks, including the No. 3 pick in the 2023 draft.
• Candace Parker is a free agent and is taking meetings with the Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky and Los Angeles Sparks, reports Annie Costabile.
• The Sparks are overhauling their team after a disappointing season and traded for two-time All-Star Dearica Hamby (plus they got the Aces’ 2024 first-round pick) while sending Amanda Zahui B. and the Sparks’ 2024 second-round pick to the defending champions. If Hamby can bounce back from the knee injury that sidelined her in the second half of last season and limited her in the playoffs it will be a huge boost for Los Angeles.
• After being traded, Hambry blasted the Aces in a statement posted on Instagram: “Being traded is part of the business. Being lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against is not.” The WNBPA is now investigating the charges.