‘We Will Be a Voice for the Voiceless’: The W.N.B.A. Season Is Dedicated to Breonna Taylor

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The W.N.B.A. season began with 26 seconds of silence and an empty court docket.

“We are 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, stated on the recreation’s begin. “We will be a voice for the voiceless.”

The 2020 season, which is being performed in a 22-week “bubble” event 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” had been outstanding on the court docket, and gamers wore jerseys that bore the identify of Ms. Taylor.

The opener — pitting younger weapons in opposition to 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 had been unable to play final season. The workforce began with the identical lineup which garnered it the 2018 championship title.

Both gamers had been snug on the court docket: Bird with 11 factors and 5 assists; Stewart 18 factors, eight rebounds, two assists and a personal-record 4 steals. The workforce’s defensive technique pressured the Liberty into 20 turnovers and a 35 % sink fee.

“I have no problem saying it,” stated Liberty Head Coach Walt Hopkins stated 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 sector with a brand new set of gamers, workers 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 nearly 34 minutes in her first league recreation. She made the primary rebound of her profession just some minutes into the sport and closed her debut with 12 factors, six rebounds and 4 assists. But the participant, recognized for her triple-doubles, wasn’t capable of sink any 3-pointers, and ended with 4 of 17 photographs made on the ground.

“I definitely think we did have some let downs,” she stated in a postgame Zoom name. Ionescu is the one N.C.A.A. basketball participant to document 2,000 factors, 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 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 workforce 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 closing prognosis has but to be introduced.

The New York Liberty will face off subsequent with the Dallas Wings on Wednesday; the Storm in opposition to the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday.

The video games will proceed 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 stated. “We’re being intentional about this and working with her mother.”