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WNBA free agency tracker: Han Xu re-signs with New York Liberty

Restricted free agent Han Xu will return to the New York Liberty for the 2023 season. (Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images)

As 2023 WNBA free agency continues to roll, teams around the league are looking to bolster their rosters ahead of the WNBA draft in April and start of the season in May.

The market is stacked with talent this year. And bombshell moves rocked the league early in the free agency period, with Candace Parker joining the Las Vegas Aces and Breanna Stewart headed to the New York Liberty.

Just Women’s Sports is keeping track of the most notable signings and acquisitions as free agency continues.

Feb. 18: Diana Taurasi signs on for two more years with Mercury

Diana Taurasi is returning for season 19, signing a two-year deal with the Phoenix Mercury.

A three-time WNBA champion, Taurasi reportedly signed at the supermax of $234,936. She currently is the WNBA’s all-time leader in scoring (9,693) and three-point field goals (1,297). She remains the only player to have more than 9,000 career points in the WNBA.

Feb. 17: Liberty re-sign Han Xu

The fan favorite and restricted free agent accepted the qualifying offer from the Liberty, which will keep her in New York for a third season.

The 23-year-old center had a breakout year in 2022, averaging 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds across 32 games. She is also a member of the Chinese national team.

Feb. 15: Shey Peddy stays with Mercury

The fifth-year guard will re-sign with Phoenix, reported Rachel Galligan of Just Women’s Sports.

Peddy joined the Mercury during the 2020 season. In her first two full seasons in Phoenix, she averaged 7.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. She scored the 15th-most points in the WNBA in August before rupturing her Achilles tendon in the first game of the playoffs.

Still, she provided an update on her recovery via Twitter on Jan. 19, writing: “For those inquiring, YES I should be ready in time for the start of the season!! One day at a time.”

Feb. 13: Mercury sign Moriah Jefferson

The Phoenix Mercury signed guard Moriah Jefferson to a reported three-year deal.

Jefferson helped jumpstart the Minnesota Lynx’s offense in 2022 after the team picked her up as a free agent in May. Starting 30 games for the Lynx last season, she averaged 10.8 points, a career-high 4.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds. On June 28, she recorded her first career triple-double against her former team, the Dallas Wings. Prior to the WNBA, Jefferson won four NCAA championships at UConn.

Feb. 13: Sky give Rebekah Gardner a raise

The Sky re-signed guard Rebekah Gardner to a one-year deal worth $100,000, according to Richard Cohen. Instead of accepting her qualifying offer, which was at a $62,285 minimum, Gardner reportedly negotiated the higher salary.

The 32-year-old shined for the Sky in 2022 after going undrafted out of UCLA in 2012 and spending most of her professional basketball career overseas. Gardner was named to the 2022 WNBA All-Rookie Team after finishing second among rookies in steals (1.4 per game) and fifth in scoring (8.4 per game).

Feb. 13: Sun re-sign Brionna Jones to one-yer deal

Connecticut officially announced the re-signing of 2022 Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones. After she was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player in 2021, Jones followed it up with another stellar season. She averaged 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals for the Sun in 2022, earning her second All-Star appearance.

The 6-foot-3 center has spent her entire career with the Sun after she was drafted eighth overall in 2017.

Feb. 11: Diamond DeShields, Marina Mabrey dealt in four-team trade

The Dallas Wings acquired All-Star guard Diamond DeShields and the Chicago Sky picked up breakout guard Marina Mabrey in a four-team WNBA trade. As part of the deal, the Phoenix Mercury acquired 2021 Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere from the New York Liberty and the Liberty received the rights to forward Leonie Fiebich.

The Sky gave up six draft picks in the trade, including three first-round picks to Dallas. That includes Chicago’s 2023 and 2024 first-round selections and 2025 first-round swap rights. The 2024 draft class is expected to be especially deep with NCAA stars Paige Bueckers, Caitlin Clark, Cameron and Angel Reese likely entering the draft.

Feb. 9: Sun send No. 6 pick to Dream for Tiffany Hayes

The Connecticut Sun acquired the rights to veteran shooting guard Tiffany Hayes in a trade with the Atlanta Dream. In exchange, Connecticut sent the No. 6 pick in the 2023 draft to Atlanta.

Hayes has spent her entire 10-year WNBA career with Atlanta. She finishes her tenure as the Dream’s franchise leader in made 3-pointers (325) and is one of only five active WNBA players with over 3,800 points, 900 rebounds, 650 assists and 300 steals in her career.

Feb. 8: Sparks re-sign Jordin Canada

The Los Angeles Sparks re-signed guard Jordin Canada to a training camp contract. The Los Angeles native signed with her hometown team on a one-year deal last February. In 2022, she averaged 9.2 points, 5.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals across 32 games and 25 starts.

Drafted fifth overall by the Seattle Storm in 2018, Canada won two WNBA championships and was named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team as the league’s steals leader in 2019.

Feb. 5: Aces send Amanda Zahui B. to Mystics

The Las Vegas Aces acquired the negotiating rights to Zahui B. in their trade of Dearica Hamby, then flipped those rights to the Washington Mystics. In return, the Aces receive the Mystics’ second-round draft picks in 2024 and 2025.

Zahui B. did not play in the WNBA last season after she was placed on the suspended list due to her overseas obligations. Through seven WNBA seasons, the center has averaged 6.2 points per game.

Feb. 3: Sky continue to replenish roster

Courtney Williams and Elizabeth Williams are joining the Sky as the team looks to reload after a free agency exodus. Harrison also has joined the Sky, who have just one starter in Kahleah Copper left under contract for 2023.

Courtney Williams averaged 11.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Connecticut Sun in 2022. Elizabeth Williams averaged 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Washington Mystics in 2022, and she is joining the Sky on a two-year deal worth $135,000 annually, Her Hoops Stats’ Richard Cohen reported.

Feb. 3: Kia Nurse to join Seattle Storm

The Storm lost Breanna Stewart to free agency and Sue Bird to retirement, but they are set to add Kia Nurse. Nurse tore her ACL during the 2021 playoffs and missed the entire 2022 season, but she did play for the Canada women’s national team at the FIBA World Cup in September.

The Storm also are expected to sign Arella Guirantes, reported Rachel Galligan of Just Women’s Sports and Winsidr.

Feb. 3: Lynx to re-sign Lindsay Allen and Bridget Carleton

The Minnesota Lynx will re-sign both Allen and Carleton. Allen averaged 6.7 points per game in 2022, while Carleton averaged 4.3 points per game.

The Lynx also signed guard Tiffany Mitchell, who spent the first seven years of her career with the Indiana Fever. She averaged 6.5 points and 1.2 assists per game for the Fever last season.

Feb. 2: Sky lose Azurá Stevens but add Isabelle Harrison

Stevens will sign with the Los Angeles Sparks, reported Rachel Galligan of Just Women’s Sports and Winsidr.

While the 27-year-old forward has played for the Chicago Sky since 2020, she joins the exodus from the team, along with Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley.

But not all hope was lost for Chicago, as free-agent forward Isabelle Harrison announced on social media that she is signing with the Sky.

In 18 games last season, Harrison averaged 8.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. She averaged less than 15 minutes per game in the latter half of the season, and she was vocal about her frustrations with former Wings head coach Vickie Johnson.

The Wings signed Crystal Dangerfield to a multi-year deal after acquiring her negotiating rights from the New York Liberty via trade in January. In addition to the 2020 Rookie of the Year, Dallas also added 2019 first-round pick Kalani Brown.

Feb. 1: Sophie Cunningham re-signs with Mercury

The 26-year-old restricted free agent agreed to a two-year deal to remain with the Phoenix Mercury, reported Rachel Galligan of Just Women’s Sports and Winsidr.

The 2019 draft pick averaged a career-high 12.6 points per game in the 2022 season. She also has shot 40% or better from 3-point range in each of the last two seasons.

Feb. 1: Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike to stick with Sparks

The sisters are both expected to re-sign with the Los Angeles Sparks, ESPN’s Holly Rowe reported Wednesday, confirming what many already expected.

Nneka Ogwumike was drafted by the Sparks with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, and she has spent her entire WNBA career with the team. Chiney Ogwumike started her career with the Connecticut Sun in 2014 but joined her older sister in Los Angeles in 2019.

The Sparks also re-signed Lexie Brown. The 28-year-old wing is entering her sixth WNBA season and her second with Los Angeles. The team also signed forward Stephanie Talbot to a two-year deal.

Feb. 1: Erica Wheeler signs with Fever

The 31-year-old guard spent the 2022 season with the Atlanta Dream, but she signed a two-year deal to return to the Indiana Fever. She played in Indiana from 2016-19, and in her last season with the team she was named the MVP of the WNBA All-Star Game.

Feb. 1: Teaira McCowan stays with Wings

The 26-year-old center was traded to the Dallas Wings from the Indiana Fever ahead of the 2022 season, and now she has agreed to a multi-year deal to stay in Dallas.

The Texas native excelled in the final stretch of the 2022 season, posting four double-doubles and averaging 17.4 points and 11.6 rebounds in August.

Feb. 1: Kristi Toliver returns to Mystics

The 36-year-old guard spent the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks but won a WNBA title with the Washington Mystics in 2019.

The Mystics also re-signed guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who played for the team from 2017-19 and then returned during the 2021 season. But the team relinquished the rights to Japanese guard Rui Machida, who joined Washington for the 2022 season.

Feb. 1: Aces add Candace Parker, Alysha Clark and Cayla George

The defending WNBA champions officially inked Parker, reportedly to a one-year, $100,000 deal. The 36-year-old forward had announced her intent to sign with the Las Vegas Aces over the weekend.

The Aces also signed Alysha Clark, in line with a report from earlier in the week, as well as Cayla George, a four-time champion in Australia’s WNBL.

Feb. 1: AD Durr re-signs with Dream

Durr is re-signing with the Atlanta Dream, sources confirmed to Rachel Galligan for Just Women’s Sports.

The 25-year-old guard joined the Dream in June via trade with the New York Liberty, averaging 10.7 points and 1.9 rebounds in 15 appearances before missing the end of the season with a hip injury.

Atlanta also re-signed Nia Coffey. The 27-year-old forward joined the team in 2022.

Feb. 1: Breanna Stewart signs with Liberty

The 2018 WNBA MVP had narrowed her free agency options to the New York Liberty or the Seattle Storm. On the opening day of the signing period, Stewart revealed her destination.

“I decided to go to New York because I want to continue to be great,” Stewart said.

Jan. 31: Teams and players prepare for signing period

Wednesday will usher in the start of the free agency signing period, so players officially will be able to sign contracts ahead of the 2023 season.

Dozens of players are on the market, and Just Women’s Sports has the full list.

Jan. 29: Mystics to sign Brittney Sykes; Alysha Clark to Aces

Brittney Sykes reached a three-year deal with the Washington Mystics, as first reported by The Next Hoops and confirmed by the Washington Post. The 28-year-old guard joins Washington after three seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks.

That move left Alysha Clark without an obvious spot in the Mystics’ lineup, but the 35-year-old wing is headed to the Las Vegas Aces, per a report from The Next Hoops. Clark had met with six different teams in free agency.

Jan. 28: Candace Parker to join Las Vegas

Parker plans to sign with the Las Vegas Aces, she announced via Instagram. The two-time WNBA MVP cited her family as the reason behind her decision.

“After evaluating the landscape together with my family, we’ve decided the Las Vegas Aces are the right organization for us at this point in our lives,” she wrote, adding that her “family’s home is on the West Coast.”

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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