The New York Liberty are 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2007. 

The 2023 WNBA title finalists notched a 74-63 win over Seattle on Monday night, with Sabrina Ionescu dropping 20 points alongside eight assists. After the game, Ionescu told reporters she thought the team was coming together a bit easier than they did last year.

"I think having a year together, we don't nearly have to communicate as much on the court anymore," she said. "Because we can just play off one another and read. And that's obviously been the growth of this team, is being able to play a season together last year."

The team’s defense has also contributed heavily to the season's winning start. Last night, the Liberty held Jewell Loyd to just 13 points and nine rebounds. Loyd let the Storm in scoring, with only two other players in double digits, while Nneka Ogwumike missed her second straight game with an ankle injury. 

Storm free agency acquisition Skylar Diggins-Smith had eight points, and is averaging 14.5 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. In her postgame remarks, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn called on others to give her grace in her return. 

"There needs to be respect about the fact that she's had two children and hasn’t played in 20 months," said Quinn. "She’s not going to come overnight and be who she was 20 months ago and we have to respect that and honor that. And I do.

"My grace as a coach is to know she’s working her butt off every day. You guys don’t see it. Every single day. Two children. Not one, two. Not many can do that."

Skylar Diggins-Smith is teasing her WNBA free agency on social media.

Over the weekend, the 33-year-old guard addressed fans’ ideas of where she should go. It started when one fan suggested that Diggins-Smith should do a “Final 5” graphic for free agency in the vein of recruits announcing their college decisions.

“5 teams is a lot!” Diggins-Smith wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “You think it’s 5 teams I fit on?”

The six-time WNBA All-Star is set to be a free agent. And while Diggins-Smith sat out the 2023 season after giving birth to her second child, her time with the Phoenix Mercury came to a contentious end.

While neither side has completely opened up about the frayed relationship, Diggins-Smith has been vocal about her desire to move on. Back in September, she told Edition that she hopes to be “supported” by her next team.

“I’ve definitely been working towards trying to have one of my most productive years next year, because I think a lot of times—especially in sports—you’re not encouraged to have kids. And the teams that I played for in the past when I got pregnant didn’t like that,” she said. “And so I’m looking forward to being somewhere where my family and I are supported and welcomed.”

Some pointed out the Connecticut Sun as a possible landing spot, while others said she should join an already stacked New York Liberty squad that recently made the WNBA Finals. That got Diggins-Smith’s attention, with her posing the question: “Would I come off the bench?”

But she also made a promise that she wouldn’t do free agency emojis, a la star 2022 free agent Breanna Stewart, who teased her free agency decision with emojis for weeks in the lead up to her signing with New York.

Skylar Diggins-Smith seemed to call out the Phoenix Mercury on social media Sunday after Sandy Brondello led the New York Liberty to the 2023 WNBA Finals in just her second year as head coach.

Brondello, 55, formerly served as head coach of the Phoenix Mercury from 2014 to 2021, leading the team to the WNBA title in 2014 and to the playoffs in every one of her eight seasons. But following the 2021 season, in which the Mercury lost to the Chicago Sky in the Finals, the team opted to move on from Brondello and did not renew her contract.

Since then, the Mercury have struggled, which resulted in the team parting ways with Brondello’s replacement, Vanessa Nygaard, midway through 2023. They also failed to make the WNBA playoffs this season for the first time since 2012.

Brondello, meanwhile, joined the New York Liberty in 2022. One season later, she has led the superteam to its first WNBA Finals appearance since 2002.

“Damn, it’s almost like Sandy is a good coach?” Diggins-Smith wrote on social media.

Diggins-Smith, 33, has been at odds with the Mercury organization since the end of last season. She gave birth to her second daughter this year, and she remained on maternity leave for the entire 2023 season. She’s set to be a free agent this offseason and all signs point to a departure from Phoenix.

Recently, Diggins-Smith said that she wants to feel “supported and welcomed” by her next WNBA team.

Skylar Diggins-Smith wants to be “supported and welcomed” by her next WNBA team.

The impending free agent hinted again at her rift with the Phoenix Mercury in an interview with Edition by Modern Luxury. The 33-year-old guard spent the 2023 season on maternity leave, and she seems set to depart the Mercury in the offseason.

In 2020, Diggins-Smith joined the Mercury via a sign-and-trade deal from the Dallas Wings after spending the 2019 season on maternity leave after the birth of her first child. Ahead of the 2023 season, she gave birth to her second child. Her desire to balance motherhood and her playing career created friction with her teams, she said.

“I’ve definitely been working towards trying to have one of my most productive years next year, because I think a lot of times—especially in sports—you’re not encouraged to have kids. And the teams that I played for in the past when I got pregnant didn’t like that,” she said. “And so I’m looking forward to being somewhere where my family and I are supported and welcomed.”

While she contemplates free agency, she is working her way toward her WNBA comeback. But she also is not pressuring herself.

“I have been trying to give myself grace and not putting that pressure on myself to be ready now,” she said. “I’m just going through flowing through the process. I’ve been feeling really good.”

And she knows she has time to get back into form. The next WNBA season is still more than six months away, so she is taking it “one day at a time” and spending time with her daughters.

“I hate this freaking snapback culture. Nope, I’m not conforming to that,” she said. “I was obviously blessed. I know not everybody has that luxury to take on maternity leave. So I was able to do that and just recover. So I didn’t feel the pressure to have to pop right back up to practice.”

Even still, she has “hated” missing this year as a competitor. But it’s made her eager to return next year.

And when she does return, she’ll be celebrating 10 years in the WNBA. That’s not something many players can say.

“It’s so dope. I wouldn’t even say 10% of women who come into the WNBA are able to sustain that for 10 years,” she said. “So I really am proud of that and I don’t take it for granted.”

Diggins-Smith “can’t wait to get back on the court again,” and she is excited to have her kids watch her play, she told Edition.

“I love for the idea for them to see me pouring into what I’m really passionate about and to see how high I can go,” she said. “You put your work into this craft, you don’t cheat it. It opened doors to me. … I definitely look forward to seeing what my personal best is because I feel like I still have more to give to the game.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith is putting in the work – even if she can’t access the Phoenix Mercury facilities.

Diggins Smith, who is on maternity leave and embroiled in a feud with the franchise, will be a free agent next year. And on Saturday, Bridget Pettis, a former Mercury guard, posted a video of Diggins-Smith to Instagram.

In the video, the guard is seen shooting jumpers, dribbling between her legs and driving into the lane for layups.

Diggins-Smith, a six-time WNBA All-Star, missed the end of the 2022 regular season and the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Las Vegas Aces because of personal reasons.

She then went on maternity leave at the start of this season and, as she revealed in a series of tweets in early August, has not been allowed to use the teams’ practice facilities or access other team resources: massage therapists, chiropractors, chefs, strength and conditioning coaches and nutritionists.

“I’m fine with being distanced,” she wrote on X. “Now I can’t possibly be the villain anymore.”

The Mercury (9-30) have struggled without Diggins-Smith and have the worst record in the league. In their final home game of the season, the Mercury fell to the Las Vegas Aces, 94-73, but Sug Sutton provided a bright spot with a triple-double – the first in league history by a player drafted after the first round.

The team wraps up its regular season Sunday on the road against the Aces.

The Phoenix Mercury’s playoff streak has come to an end, and now it’s time for the franchise to look to the future. The team’s run of 10 consecutive postseason appearances officially ended with a loss to the Dallas Wings on Sunday, though the outcome was expected for much of the season.

Phoenix lost 10 of 12 games to start the season before parting ways with head coach Vanessa Nygaard in late June. They battled injuries, and All-Star Brittney Griner missed several games on mental health leave stemming from her 10-month detainment in Russia last year. Meanwhile, veteran guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who had a career-best season in 2022-23, has been out on maternity leave.

The cards were stacked against the Mercury from the start, and they couldn’t overcome the bevy of challenges.

Interim head coach Nikki Blue said Sunday that her team would focus on winning their remaining games, despite being out of the playoffs but in the running for the top pick in the draft lottery. She also admitted that the team did not live up to the standard previously set in Phoenix.

After falling to the Atlanta Dream 94-76 on Tuesday, the Mercury have games against Connecticut, Minnesota and Washington before closing their season with two contests against first-place Las Vegas.

“It was a season that was not ideal,” said Blue, who served as an assistant coach before assuming the interim role.

Phoenix has also struggled with off-court issues this season surrounding Diggins-Smith. The six-time WNBA All-Star averaged 19.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game for the Mercury last season after helping them reach the Finals in 2021. But in 2022, Nygaard attempted to downplay rising tensions between her and Diggins-Smith over comments she made around the All-Star Game. And during a game, Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi had to be separated during a heated exchange on the bench.

This year, in early August, Diggins-Smith expressed concerns with how the Mercury have managed her maternity leave. Her comments on social media came in response to a fan who questioned why the Mercury did not wish Diggins-Smith a happy birthday on their social media accounts.

“They’re not gonna acknowledge me this year and it’s OK guys,” Diggins-Smith wrote. “We’re not affiliated unless it’s the checks….per management. I can’t even use the practice facility or any resources.”

Diggins-Smith, who gave birth to her second child earlier this year, later clarified that “resources” includes “massage therapists, chiropractor, chefs, strength and conditioning, and nutritionists.”

The Notre Dame product will be a free agent in 2024, and the recent events make it hard to envision her re-signing with Phoenix.

Meanwhile, future Hall of Famer Diana Taurasi became the first player in WNBA history to reach 10,000 career points this season. She is nearing the end of her career, though she has a year left on her contract with Phoenix and remains tight-lipped about a potential retirement.

Taurasi has been the center of Phoenix’s offense since she was drafted by the franchise in 2004. The 41-year-old is being paid $234,936 this season and next, before becoming a free agent in 2025.

The Mercury need to start looking toward the future, especially if they want to capitalize on Griner’s resurgence. She helped Phoenix to a WNBA title in 2014, and the 32-year-old can serve as a centerpiece for several more seasons if the Mercury surround her with talent.

Phoenix will be one of four teams in the lottery with a chance at earning the rights to the top draft pick in 2024, where they could select Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers, Cameron Brink, Angel Reese or another top college prospect. Despite being at the top of mock draft boards, all four players could come back for a fifth season due to an eligibility rule stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, which canceled their freshman seasons.

But before Phoenix turns to the draft, the organization needs to decide if Blue is the coach for the job. The former UCLA player was an assistant coach for four college programs between 2008 and 2022 before joining the Mercury staff last season.

“I hope that they’ve seen the transition that our team has made in the time that I’ve been head coach,” Blue told reporters on Sunday. “Once we get a full roster, I would like to see what we can do with that.”

Phoenix has gone 7-16 since Blue took over.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Skylar Diggins-Smith, who is on maternity leave, is unable to use the Phoenix Mercury’s practice facilities or any other team resources, she said Thursday.

The 33-year-old guard has been on maternity leave since the start of the 2023 WNBA season after giving birth to her second child earlier this year. While she has been seen practicing her game in social media videos, her return to the court this season remains an open question.

The six-time WNBA All-Star is under contract with the Mercury. Yet while coach Vanessa Nygaard – with whom Diggins-Smith had a tenuous relationship – was fired in June, the team and Diggins-Smith remain at odds.

In a series of social media posts Thursday, Diggins-Smith said she is barred from using the team’s facility and resources. The initial post came in response to fan, who noticed that the team had not wished Diggins-Smith a happy birthday. Diggins-Smith turned 33 on Aug. 2.

“They’re not gonna acknowledge me this year and it’s OK guys,” she said. “We’re not affiliated unless it’s the checks… per management. I can’t even use the practice facility or any resources.”

She then clarified which resources she is going without but which “EVERY other player has access to,” including massage therapists, chiropractors, chefs, strength and conditioning coaches and nutritionists.

“I’m fine with being distanced… (because) now I can’t possibly be the villain anymore,” she wrote.

Local reporter Sarah Kezele reported that the lack of access for Diggins-Smith “is related to her personal relationship with the organization at the moment, not the fact that she is on maternity leave.”

Earlier this season, Phoenix players remained mum about her return, but several – including Brittney Griner – noted that they had spoken with her this season.

But Mercury general manager Jim Pitman, when asked directly if he would like to see Diggins-Smith in a Mercury uniform this season, said only that “she’s on maternity leave right now.”

Diggins-Smith missed the last four games of the 2022 regular season and Phoenix’s opening-round playoff series against the eventual champion Las Vegas Aces for personal reasons, the team said at the time. She averaged 19.7 points in 30 games up to that point.

“It was all good when I was leaving for personal time!! But when I’m leaving because I was having complications and scared of risking my child… while leading the league in minutes (pregnant). Trade her?” she wrote Thursday, alluding to issues with the team dating back to the 2022 season.

The status of Phoenix Mercury star Skylar Diggins-Smith remains up in the air for the 2023 WNBA season.

Diggins-Smith gave birth to her second child earlier this year, and she started the WNBA season on maternity leave. The 32-year-old has been seen on social media putting up shots, but whether she will sit out the season or return to the court (and to the Mercury) is an open question.

Diggins-Smith missed the last four games of the 2022 regular season and Phoenix’s opening-round playoff series against the eventual champion Las Vegas Aces for personal reasons, the team said at the time. She averaged 19.7 points in 30 games up to that point.

After the end of the season, she announced her pregnancy. She missed the 2019 WNBA season after giving birth to her son that spring, which sets a precedent for the guard missing the 2023 season after the recent birth of her daughter.

The relationship between Diggins-Smith and head coach Vanessa Nygaard was rocky, including when she tweeted a clown emoji in response to comments from the coach. But the team parted ways with Nygaard after a 2-10 start.

Still, players and team personnel have remained mum on her status.

“She’s one of the top players in the whole league and when you’re done having a child, who knows how long it takes your body to get back?” Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham said Saturday. “It’s up in the air. We know as much as you. And so that’s that.”

Mercury center Brittney Griner, who was recently named an All-Star starter, said Diggins-Smith congratulated her on the honor. But she did not speculate on a possible return date for Diggins-Smith.

“Above my paygrade, that’s a great question for the people above me,” Griner said when asked about Diggins-Smith’s status. “Last night, she hit me and told me congrats on the All-Star, and I asked her how the fam’s doing, how everything’s going. People get too tied up in basketball. We’re all human, we have families and we have other things that are bigger than basketball. It was good to talk to her.”

Mercury general manager Jim Pitman, when asked directly if he would like to see Diggins-Smith in a Mercury uniform this season, said only that “she’s on maternity leave right now.” Following this season, Diggins-Smith is a free agent.

The guard recently told Essence that she’s in no rush to get back, noting that returning from pregnancy is “a process.”

“Your body changes and everybody carries differently. You just have to really sit back and realize what you’ve done, what your body has done,” she said. “Give your body time to heal, give your body time to recover, give yourself grace during this time. It’s a process.

“I’m not really worried about snapping back. I just want to enjoy this time with my daughter.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith just added another layer to her already impressive season for the Phoenix Mercury.

The WNBA star announced her pregnancy Monday via Instagram, posting photos of herself with the caption, “New addition loading.”

Diggins-Smith is expecting her second child. When she played for the Dallas Wings, she missed the 2019 WNBA season after giving birth to her son that spring.

While the Mercury star missed the final two games of the 2022 season and the playoffs for “personal reasons,” she averaged 19.7 points across 30 games before that point, the third-highest mark in the league this season and the second-highest mark of her career.

Diggins-Smith butted heads with coach Vanessa Nygaard at times this season, including when she tweeted a clown emoji in response to comments from the coach.

Still, she excelled on the court as a workhorse for the Mercury. She averaged 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals in a league-high 34 minutes per game. Her impressive campaign earned her an All-WNBA first team selection. She also garnered an All-Star nod in July.

Fellow WNBA stars Kia Nurse, Diamond DeShields, Arike Ogunbowale and Isabelle Harrison were among the players to congratulate Diggins-Smith on Instagram after her pregnancy announcement.

“Ommmggg WOMENS NATIONAL BABY ASSOCIATION… oomggg moreeee babbiiessss,” Dearica Hamby tweeted. Hamby announced her own pregnancy after she helped the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA title.

The WNBA’s new CBA, signed in 2020, guarantees that players receive their salary while on maternity leave, plus an annual child-care stipend of $5,000.

The Phoenix Mercury will be without Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi for at least the first game of their first-round playoff series against the Las Vegas Aces, the team announced Tuesday.

For Wednesday’s opener, Taurasi continues to deal with a right quad injury, while Diggins-Smith is listed as not with the team for personal reasons.

Diggins-Smith has not played since an Aug. 4 loss to the Connecticut Sun – a loss that came on the same day that teammate Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony. A league source told The Next Hoops that Diggins-Smith is not expected to return for the playoffs.

While Diggins-Smith is still under contract next year, Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said the guard’s future in Phoenix in the playoffs and beyond is unclear.

“I’m not too sure right now,” Nygaard said. “We’re not sure what that looks like right now. But [going into the playoffs], we’re going to prepare with the group that we have. And you know, get ready for anything.”

Diggins-Smith recently was named to the AP’s All-WNBA Second Team after finishing third in the league in points per game (19.7), seventh in assists (5.5), eighth in steals (1.5) and ninth in blocks (1.0).