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Monday, July 15, 2024

Liberty Warned WNBA of NBA Draft Game Conflict Months Ago

  • Long Island is the one part of the New York region that the Liberty had managed to avoid.
  • The Liberty will face the Lynx in an attempt to repeat the Commissioner’s Cup title.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Longtime fans of the New York Liberty looking to see their team win their second consecutive Commissioner’s Cup will have to acquaint themselves with the Long Island Rail Road or Expressway. 

The Commissioner’s Cup championship game against the Minnesota Lynx on June 25 has been moved from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., due to their home arena’s annual hosting of the NBA draft the following night. 

“While we wish we could have brought this game to our fans in our home arena, we are grateful to UBS Arena for accommodating us and providing a world-class venue in New York,” said Liberty CEO Keia Clarke in a release. 

Sources who spoke to Front Office Sports painted a less rosy picture. The team warned the WNBA in December that the June 25 date was unavailable in Brooklyn, as the draft date had already been set, and it felt that the league blew off the warning. When the Liberty clinched home court for the Commissioner’s Cup, they proposed using a July 2 home game against the Lynx as the Cup final, something technically permitted by the league’s collective bargaining agreement, sources said. Instead, the league offered the Lynx the opportunity to choose between July 2 in Brooklyn or June 25 elsewhere. The Lynx selected the Long Island venue, which is about one hour away from the Liberty’s usual home and could depress their typically robust attendance.

“With the scheduling of the NBA draft at Barclays Center on June 26, the NBA created an unavoidable conflict for use of the building,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said. “We are working closely with the New York Liberty on this one-game relocation to UBS Arena and to provide the best possible experience for attendees and participants at the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship.  We apologize for any inconvenience to the Liberty’s season-ticket holders and loyal fans.”

It’s not the first time the league has been at odds with the Liberty and their owners. In 2021, the WNBA fined the Tsais $500,000 for violating the league’s CBA for providing charter flights during the second half of the 2021 season. Joe Tsai was very vocal in his support for charter flights, which became official only before the start of this current season.

The change is 20 miles east of Barclays Center and makes for quite the commute compared to the metro-friendly home arena the team currently occupies. Madison Square Garden, where the team played from 1997 to 2010 and again from ’14 to ’17, isn’t an option because of a concert that night with rapper A Boogie Wit da Hoodie. Even if it were, James Dolan might not be inclined to help the Libs out in a tight spot. (Dolan owns the Knicks and Madison Square Garden, and he used to own the Liberty.)

“The Liberty had been underinvested in,” Liberty co-owner Clara Wu Tsai recently told the How She Does It podcast. “It was a storied franchise. But the previous owners for whatever reason just decided they didn’t want to invest anymore, so they moved the team to play in Westchester County Center from Madison Square Garden.”

Before the Tsais’ ownership, the Liberty were a nomadic franchise, playing everywhere from Newark, N.J., to the aforementioned Westchester County, with two stints at MSG mixed in before settling at Barclays Center. Long Island was the one area the team had managed to avoid. Until now. 

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