11 February 2020

Recapping a wild first day of WNBA signings as LA Sparks fly for former flame Toliver

It was a wild first day of WNBA free agency signings with a current champion jumping ship and a five-time All-Star packing her bags to Sin City. 

Teams have been allowed to court players since January 28, but yesterday was the first day anyone could put pen to paper.

These are also the first free agency deals to be negotiated under the WNBA’s new blockbuster collective bargaining agreement.

January’s historic deal increased player cash compensation by 53% and raised each team’s salary cap by 30% from just under $1 million to $1.3 million.

Here’s everything you need to know from day one:  

The LA Sparks reunited with Kristi Toliver and bolstered their defence

Three-time All-Star Kristi Toliver signed a three-year deal and will reunite with the Sparks in LA where she spent seven seasons and won her first WNBA championship in 2016.

The guard re-joins the Sparks from 2019 champions the Washington Mystics.

Speaking about joining the LA outfit, she said: “Returning to Los Angeles is special to me for many reasons. I’m ready for what’s ahead and can’t wait to get started.”

And Sparks head coach Derek Fisher said signing the 33-year-old Virginia native was the team’s number-one priority.  

“Kristi understands the habits and dedication required on a daily basis to build a championship culture. We’re excited to have her rejoin the Sparks family.”

Toliver also serves as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Washington Wizards and is expected to remain in her role there.

This is possible because the WNBA season begins a month after the Wizards’ final regular-season game in April.  

But Toliver wasn’t the only addition to the Sparks’ roster yesterday.

In exchange for promising 22-year-old former first-round pick Kalani Brown, who averaged 5.1 points in her rookie season last year, the Sparks acquired centre Marie Gülich and guard Brittney Sykes from Atlanta Dream.  

Angel McCoughtry will get a fresh start in Sin City

In January, Dream decided to allow forward Angel McCoughtry, who spent her entire career with Dream after signing in 2009, to explore options with other teams.

The five-time All-Star, who had expressed frustration with her former club, was excited to join the Las Vegas Aces next season.  

McCoughtry, a two-time WNBA points leader, missed all of last season with a knee injury she suffered in August 2018 and was only cleared to play three months ago.

She said: “Las Vegas baby! I’m truly honoured for the opportunity to continue my career and make my return to the WNBA with the Aces.

“I can’t wait to get to know the fans and the community and bond with my new teammates.  

“It is truly a blessing to continue playing the game I love.”

Moriah Jefferson and Megan Gustafson will fly again in Dallas

The Dallas Wings re-inked multi-year deals with guard Moriah Jefferson and forward Megan Gustafson and also re-committed to Imani McGee-Stafford and Karlie Samuelson.

Former Aces point guard Jefferson, a Texas native, sat out last season with an injury, but was thrilled to re-join the Wings.  

“I never thought I would get the chance to be back home in Dallas and play with a great organisation in front of a great city with amazing fans,” she said.

Gustafson averaged 2.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game for the Wings last season and said she’s keen to improve her stats this year.  

McGee-Stafford impressed in 29 games for Dallas last season, averaging 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds in her maiden season with the team.

Samuelson’s offence has exploded while playing for Spanish side Liga Feminina de Balconcesto this year and Wings’ President Greg Bibb believes she has what it takes to be a consistent three-point shooter.  

Dallas also signed 2019 third-round draft pick Morgan Bertsch, who played professionally in Russia last year.  

Layshia Clarendon is no longer free after signing with Liberty

Layshia Clarendon joins New York Liberty fresh from clinching an Olympic berth with the US national team last weekend.

The veteran point guard, 28, who most recently played for Connecticut Sun before getting sidelined with an injury, is known as a leader on and off the court.

Liberty were the lucky WNBA lottery winners last year and will have the number one pick for the first time in franchise history when the league’s draft takes place in April.

But that’s not all…

Sue Bird, who won three titles in 17 years with Seattle Storm, expressed her intention of re-signing with the club.

And 2019 championship runners-up Connecticut Sun re-committed to centre Jonquel “JJ” Jones, but parted ways with forward Morgan Tuck.

Sun sent the 25-year-old and their number 11 draft pick to Storm in exchange for the seventh pick in April. 

That’s just day one! Check back tomorrow for more action.

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