New York Liberty 2022 free agency preview: This is where the fun begins

Having brought about a new era of contention through the hiring of Sandy Brondello, a fateful free agency period looms for the New York Liberty.

Playoff appearances? All-Rookie nominations? That’s so 2020 (and 2021). 

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After a nomadic experience brought about the famous “hybrid rebuild” primarily overseen by general manager Jonathan Kolb and CEO Keia Clarke, the New York Liberty appear to consider themselves ready to re-enter the WNBA’s championship conversion. Such a declaration was hinted upon by the hiring of lauded new head coach Sandy Brondello and more or less confirmed by Kolb upon the former’s introduction on January 7. 

“I think it’s just that we’re ready to take that next step,” Kolb said of the message that hiring a championship lead like Brondello sends to the rest of the league. “For the past couple of years, (the question) has been, how do we get to the playoffs for the first time since 2017?

“So how do we take that next step? How do we establish continuity? How do we establish an identity that will carry on into what we hope will ultimately be a championship at the end of the day? So for us, that’s the message is that we’re ready to raise our ceiling and step forward.” 

Asked if the “hybrid rebuild” definition of Liberty basketball could be retired, Kolb declared, with a smile, “I think you can.”

Kolb and Brondello were quick to point out that the Liberty have some well-established young pieces obtained during the polarizing hybrid rebuild. The respective rises of not only touted franchise savior Sabrina Ionescu but also newcomers Michaela Onyenwere and DiDi Richards (both representatives on the league’s All-Rookie team), as well as the chance to work with a fully healthy Natasha Howard, made the Liberty one of the most attractive head coaching vacancies in recent memory. Howard was part of a fairly sizable offseason splash that also begot three-point threat Sami Whitcomb. And, of course, local legend Betnijah Laney built upon the Most Improved Player campaign she staged in the Bradenton bubble, by earning her first All-Star nomination in Las Vegas last summer. 

But, as a certain young New Yorker was recently told, with great power comes great responsibility. As the Liberty seek to enter a new era, some tough decisions must be made. They’ll look to embark on what’s sure to be one of more curious free agency searches the WNBA has ever seen: they have an attractive environment, one defined by playing their home games in the proper New York City area, but hardly any roster spots to work with. It could lead to parting ways with some beloved fan favorites who worked through trying times to build themselves up as long-term WNBA staples. The current New York roster doesn’t even factor in the potential return of international sensations that have made their marks overseas (i.e., Marine Johannes, Han Xu) or the still promising cases sidelined by medical woes (i.e., Asia Durr, Jocelyn Willoughby). 

The next crucial steps of the process will begin on Saturday, as the league’s legal free agency period is open to negotiations. What can be expected? NR has all you need to know below…

(all definitions via


The Core designation gives a team exclusive negotiating rights with a player. Starting in 2022, a player is not eligible to be given a Core designation if they have played pursuant to a Core player contract for two or more seasons.

The Liberty have not cored any players and there are no indications they plan to do so. 

Qualifying Offers

Per Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan, the Liberty have extended qualifying offers to the following players:

G Paris Kea

The North Carolina alumna proved to be one of the Liberty’s more pleasant surprises in the Bradenton bubble after she joined the group late once it became clear that Ionescu’s infamous ankle injury was going to be a season-ending issue. She reached double figures in four of her 15 appearances but a torn ACL suffered in Israeli endeavors prevented her from getting another opportunity during the 2021 preseason. If she’s healthy enough to partake, the resilient Kea should, at the very least, become an intriguing training camp headline.

F Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe

It’s been a while since Raincock-Ekunwe has donned seafoam, but the Toronto-born athlete left an impression during a late showcase during the 2019 season. Raincock-Ekunwe has opted to focus more on her national career with Team Canada, but no international tournament coincides with the WNBA season this time around (in fact, the league structured its 2022 schedule to avoid the upcoming FIBA World Cup in Australia). Some late, narrow losses proved that the Liberty could use some experienced physicality and athleticism in the paint. If she opts to resume her WNBA career, Raincock-Ekunwe could prove herself essential to the New York cause in that role. 


Players with four years of service can receive Qualifying Offers to become Restricted Free Agents. Restricted free agency gives the player’s prior team the right to sign the player by matching a contract offer from another team (Right of First Refusal). If the player signs an Offer Sheet with another team, the player’s prior team has four days from the date it receives the Offer Sheet to determine whether it wishes to match. If the offer is matched, the player will remain with their prior team. If the offer is not matched within the four-day period, the player will be under contract with the offering team.

G Marine Johannès

There’s no use in playing “What If…?” but the idea of a sharpshooter like Johannès partaking in the Liberty’s literally historic efforts from beyond the arc seems like basketball nirvana. Johannès has kept to international work over the past two years, which includes a bronze medal run with her native France during the Tokyo Olympics. Departed head coach Walt Hopkins was a fan of what Johannès had to offer (calling her “dangerous in the open court”), and Kolb was pleased to report during the 2020 draft lottery that she was “playing the best basketball of her career right now.” There’s no doubt that the new “MJ” has lingered in the minds of the organization. 


Players with fewer than five years of service who do not receive Qualifying Offers become Unrestricted Free Agents. Players with five or more years of service will become Unrestricted Free Agents. An Unrestricted Free Agent is free to sign with any team provided that they are not designated as a Core Player by their prior team.

F Bec Allen

In terms of their current roster, all eyes will on Allen, the lone leftover from the team’s Madison Square Garden days, over the next few weeks. Over the past seven years, the Victoria native nicknamed “Spida” has gone from last woman off the bench to deadly all-around talent, her progress on full display last season. Allen is coming off new career-best in most major categories and complemented a newfound scoring with her already renowned tenacious defense. She made her Olympic debut in the 2021 under the guidance of none other than Brondello. Allen has been a major part of the New York rebuild… will she stick around to finally reap the rewards?

F Reshanda Gray

No one in recent memory has perhaps personified the WNBA’s need to expand more than Gray, who has proven herself more than worthy of lasting inclusion through five separate New York tenures over the past three years. Originally brought upon to keep a roster spot warm for players fulfilling lingering international duties, Gray made herself an essential part of the New York roster, to the point where the team bid farewell to Kiah Stokes to bring her aboard full-time. She is a proven veteran leader of high character and her status as an Association staple shouldn’t be in question. Gray even found a way to contribute to the Liberty’s obsession with the three-pointer through some showstopping triples of her own. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags