New York Liberty
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

With new opportunities on the horizon, the New York Liberty will play two games at Barclays Center in their first year under new ownership.

Geoff Magliocchetti

The New York Liberty will have just over a month’s sleep until Brooklyn.

The team’s official website currently lists two dates at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. This is in tune with their new ownership, with Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai completing a purchase of the team in January. New York’s WNBA franchise will take on the Chinese national team in a May 9 exhibition, before taking on the Seattle Storm in a regular season matinee on Aug. 11. Tickets went on sale earlier this week.

China’s national team placed sixth in last fall’s FIBA Women’s World Cup in Tenerife. The Storm are the defending WNBA champions, earning their third title with a three-game sweep of the Washington Mystics. Breanna Stewart, the top pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft, was named Finals MVP.

Barclays Center will become the fourth full-time home of the Liberty. The team has spent most of their existence at Madison Square Garden while under ownership of the MSG Company. When the team was put up for sale in late 2017, a majority of the team’s games were moved to Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. The remainder of the team’s 2019 home games will continue to be played in White Plains. Liberty home games have also been played at Radio City Music Hall, which is likewise under MSG ownership, and Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

The team’s vocal fanbase was not pleased with the move to White Plains, which sent the Liberty’s attendance rankings to the bottom of the league. Westchester County Center has a listed attendance of 5,000, but that number was reduced during Liberty games. The Liberty did play two games at MSG, a pair of matinee showdowns attended by children from schools and summer camps. Last season’s final ledger stood at 7-27, the worst mark in team history.

In an exclusive August interview with ESNY, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was pleased with the Westchester arrangements, but didn’t rule out a return to a more spacious arena.

“I think there’s a great future for the team (in White Plains),” Silver said at the time. “Maybe someday, as the league continues to grow, it’ll be appropriate to be in a 19,000 seat building, but right now, it’s a fantastic and affordable experience”

Upon the sale, Tsai hinted at a commitment to the New York area. Rumors of a move swirled through the sale discussion, but Tsai put a good portion of the gossip to rest in a team-released statement.

“As one of New York’s proudest franchises, the Liberty has played a vital role in New York City over the past 22 years,” he said. “The Liberty and WNBA exemplify what it means to compete at the highest level, serve as role models in the local community, and bring greater opportunities to female athletes. Our goal is to continue this important work and help bring the WNBA into its next phase of growth.”

The new developments have Liberty fans buzzing, and the positive feelings extend to head coach Katie Smith. Speaking at the Total Health Forum in conjunction with the NBA & Kaiser Permanente, Smith told ESNY in another exclusive about her hopes for the new era.

“It’s great where we’re at right now,” Smith said. “To be away from the limbo that we had for the last year and a half to now having a real, new ownership that’s behind us, that’s all in, helping us in any way we can possibly think of, it’s a great feeling. Now you can start and build.”

The Liberty are one of three original WNBA franchises from its 1997 inception that remain in their original market, and only one left in the Eastern Conference. Western holdovers include the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury.

Should the two games prove to be successful, the Liberty could move into the building full-time. Another home under Tsai’s watch could be Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. Both arenas are operated by Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Nets.

Best known as the long-time home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, the Coliseum currently features professional basketball in the form of the Long Island Nets of the NBA G League. Long Island recently wrapped up its first G League playoff berth, earning the Eastern Conference’s top spot. They’ll make their postseason debut on Friday night in Uniondale (7:00 p.m. ET, Facebook Live), having received a first-round bye.

Opening in 2012, Barclays Center plays host to Nets basketball as well as Islanders hockey, sharing the latter duties with the Coliseum. The Liberty perhaps hope the good recent vibes of the current tenants rubs off. Both the Nets and Islanders are set to partake in their respective league’s postseason, the former trying to end a three-year playoff drought.

The Liberty’s regular season will open on May 24 in White Plains against the Indiana Fever.

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