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New role in New York doesn’t diminish Jonquel Jones’ power

Jonquel Jones joined the New York Liberty from the Connecticut Sun via blockbuster trade ahead of the 2023 season. (Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Jonquel Jones still thinks about what could have been.

The 2021 WNBA MVP spent six seasons with the Connecticut Sun, making the Finals twice and the semifinals another two times. Still, she turns over each missed opportunity in her mind. A tweak here, an adjustment there, and maybe she would have won a title with the Sun.

“Even when you’re reminiscing you kind of think about things that you could probably do to get you over that hump,” Jones said. “It’s in the books now. There’s nothing that we can do to change it, but there’s times where it’s bitter and when it’s really sweet, literally. I’m happy to be able to accomplish what we were able to accomplish. But I still have a sore feeling of not being able to just finish it out and seal the deal.”

That’s part of the reason why Jones sat where she did Tuesday, against the backdrop of a Connecticut Sun press conference while wearing a New York Liberty jersey. A blockbuster trade in the offseason brought her to New York, with the hope that a fresh start could lead to her first WNBA Championship.

Yet the bittersweet taste of her ending with the Sun has tinged the beginning of her tenure with the Liberty.

The 29-year-old forward is still nursing a foot injury sustained during the 2022 Finals, in which the Sun lost 3-1 to the Las Vegas Aces. And her production so far this season isn’t what the WNBA has become accustomed to seeing. Jones is averaging 9.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, all down from her career averages of 13.3, 8.2 and 1.4.

The injury has played a part, but so has New York’s personnel. There’s a reason the squad has been heralded as the WNBA’s first superteam. The roster includes another MVP in Breanna Stewart, and still more stars in Courtney Vandersloot and Sabrina Ionescu. Then there’s Betnijah Laney, who became a cornerstone of the team in 2021, as well as a bench unit that features an exciting playmaker in Marine Johannès and a former WNBA champion in Stefanie Dolson. Kayla Thornton also has become a key piece of the secondary unit in her first season with the team.

That’s a lot of talent sharing one ball. But a decrease in production and a different role doesn’t take away from who Jones is.

“She’s still very important to what we are trying to accomplish here,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “She’s still getting back into top form, but in our minds, she’s still an MVP.”

The 6-6 Jones isn’t putting up 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds like she did during her MVP campaign in 2021. But just looking at her current stats does Jones a disservice, according to Brondello.

“She complements the players that we have and we are going to increase her role a little bit and build her up in the right way,” Brondello said.

Jones isn’t the only player who is capable of more than her current role. Thornton was a starter for the Dallas Wings last season, and Johannès could start on a team without Ionescu and Vandersloot ahead of her on the depth chart. And Laney, the fifth starter, is often forgotten when it comes to the superteam narrative. But opponents aren’t forgetting about any of the Liberty players.

“You have to defend all five positions at an elite level,” Sun coach Stephanie White said of the Liberty. “It’s tough because you really have to defend one-on-one because if you get caught in rotations you are vulnerable from a rebounding standpoint. You have to be great in all areas.”

You also have to understand that you can’t stop everyone.

“There are certain players on the floor that we have to live with taking shots and making shots,” White said. “And there are other players that if they make tough shots, you have to live with that too.”

So far this season, Stewart, Ionescu and Vandersloot have been New York’s big three, with Laney, Johannès and Jones just behind Vandersloot in scoring, all hovering around 10 points per game. But every time the Liberty take the floor, someone different can provide a scoring lift.

In Tuesday’s 89-81 win against the Sun, it was Laney with 16 and Jones with 14. Two games earlier, Johannès scored 18 points off the bench, and Thornton had 10. Laney had 17 in an overtime win over the Mystics, and in an early-season win over the Storm, Dolson had 10 points and 5 assists in just 18 minutes of action.

That willingness to take what comes to them and make the most of it has helped propel the Liberty to a 10-3 record. It also has kept New York in the championship conversation heading into Thursday’s superteam clash with Las Vegas.

“You just have to be ready,” Thornton said. “You don’t ever know when your name is going to be called, so you just have to stay ready and not get inside your head. You’ve got to look at what the team needs.”

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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