The W.N.B.A. season began with 26 seconds of silence and an empty courtroom.
“We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor,” Layshia Clarendon, a New York Liberty guard and member of the new W.N.B.A. Social Justice Council, mentioned at the recreation’s begin. “We will be a voice for the voiceless.”
The 2020 season, which is being performed in a 22-week “bubble” match at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is anticipated to be charged with social justice initiatives alongside a full championship schedule. Symbols and logos declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” have been outstanding on the courtroom, 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 Bird, the all-time help chief of the league, and Breanna Stewart, the 2018 M.V.P., after each have been unable to play final season. The staff began with the identical lineup which garnered it the 2018 championship title.
Both gamers have been comfy on the courtroom: Bird with 11 factors and 5 assists; Stewart 18 factors, eight rebounds, two assists and a personal-record 4 steals. The staff’s defensive technique pressured the Liberty into 20 turnovers and a 35 p.c sink fee.
“I have no problem saying it,” mentioned Liberty Head Coach Walt Hopkins mentioned in a pregame Zoom name with reporters, “they’re probably the favorite to win it this year.”
While the Storm sported a seasoned lineup, the Liberty entered the enviornment with a 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 sooner tempo and extra Three-point makes an attempt.
Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 pick out of the 2020 draft from Oregon, played for nearly 34 minutes in her first league game. She made the first rebound of her career just a few minutes into the game and closed her debut with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists. But the player, known for her triple-doubles, wasn’t able to sink any 3-pointers, and ended with four of 17 shots made on the floor.
“I definitely think we did have some let downs,” she said in a postgame Zoom call. Ionescu is the only N.C.A.A. basketball player to record 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds. “But we have to play in a few days and I have to learn from those mistakes.”
She’s one of seven rookies on the Liberty’s roster, which started down Asia Durr, who is battling the coronavirus, and the rookie Megan Walker, who will join the team on Monday, following quarantine protocols after testing positive for the coronavirus just over two weeks ago.
Jazmine Jones, another new face to the W.N.B.A., was also absent after sustaining an ankle sprain in training this week. And the Liberty lost Kia Nurse, the Liberty’s second-leading scorer, with eight minutes left in the second quarter, to an apparent ankle sprain, although a final diagnosis has yet to be announced.
The New York Liberty will face off next with the Dallas Wings on Wednesday; the Storm against the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday.
The games will continue to be marked by social justice initiatives; the league dedicates its 22-week season to Ms. Taylor.
“We’re not just slapping her name on a shirt and saying, ‘Here we go,’” Clarendon said. “We’re being intentional about this and working with her mother.”