The W.N.B.A. season began with 26 seconds of silence and an empty court docket.
“We’re dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor,” Layshia Clarendon, a New York Liberty guard and member of the brand new W.N.B.A. Social Justice Council, mentioned on the sport’s begin. “We might be a voice for the unvoiced.”
The 2020 season, which is being performed in a 22-game “bubble” setting at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is predicted to be charged with social justice initiatives alongside a full championship schedule. Symbols and logos declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Identify” had been distinguished on the court docket, and gamers wore jerseys that bore the title of Ms. Taylor.
The opener — pitting younger weapons towards league veterans, first-times and comebacks — ended with a 87-71 Seattle Storm victory over the New York Liberty.
The Seattle Storm introduced again Sue Chicken, the profession assists chief of the league, and Breanna Stewart, the 2018 M.V.P., after each had been unable to play final season. The group began with the identical lineup which garnered it the 2018 championship title.
Each gamers had been comfy on the court docket: Chicken with 11 factors and 5 assists; Stewart 18 factors, eight rebounds, two assists and a personal-record 4 steals. The group’s defensive technique compelled the Liberty into 20 turnovers and a 35 % sink price.
“I’ve no downside saying it,” mentioned Liberty Head Coach Walt Hopkins mentioned in a pregame Zoom name with reporters, “they’re in all probability the favourite to win it this 12 months.”
Whereas the Storm sported a seasoned lineup, the Liberty entered the world with a brand new set of gamers, employees and technique. Hopkins, a first-time head coach who beforehand was an assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx, has pushed for a quicker tempo and extra 3-point makes an attempt.
Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 select of the 2020 draft from Oregon, performed for almost 34 minutes in her first league sport. She made the primary rebound of her profession only a few minutes into the sport and closed her debut with 12 factors, six rebounds and 4 assists. However the participant, identified for her triple-doubles, wasn’t in a position to sink any 3-pointers, and ended with 4 of 17 photographs made on the ground.
“I undoubtedly suppose we did have some let downs,” she mentioned in a postgame Zoom name. Ionescu is the one N.C.A.A. basketball participant to file 2,000 factors, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds. “However we’ve got to play in a number of days and I’ve to study from these errors.”
She’s considered one of seven rookies on the Liberty’s roster, which began down Asia Durr, who’s battling the coronavirus, and the rookie Megan Walker, who will be a part of the group on Monday, following quarantine protocols after testing optimistic for the coronavirus simply over two weeks in the past.
Jazmine Jones, one other new face to the W.N.B.A., was additionally absent after sustaining an ankle sprain in coaching this week. And the Liberty misplaced Kia Nurse, the Liberty’s second-leading scorer, with eight minutes left within the second quarter, to an obvious ankle sprain, though a ultimate analysis has but to be introduced.
The New York Liberty will face off subsequent with the Dallas Wings on Wednesday; the Storm towards the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday.
The video games will proceed to be marked by social justice initiatives; the league dedicates its 22-game season to Ms. Taylor.
“We’re not simply slapping her title on a shirt and saying, ‘Right here we go,’” Clarendon mentioned. “We’re being intentional about this and dealing together with her mom.”