New York Liberty sign star guard Courtney Vandersloot

Star point guard Courtney Vandersloot will sign with the New York Liberty, she announced Thursday, further bolstering the Liberty’s prospects of winning a franchise-first championship in the near future.

The Liberty — the only still-active original franchise yet to win a title — made the biggest splash in free agency by recruiting Vandersloot, signing Breanna Stewart and trading for Jonquel Jones. Stewart and Jones won league MVP awards in 2018 and 2021, respectively, and are considered the top three players in the world.

The details of Vandersloot’s contract are still being negotiated as the Liberty determine how to fit the salaries of her and Stewart under the league’s hard cap, league sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

Stewart, a two-time Finals MVP who is currently playing alongside Vandersloot on the Turkish team Fenerbahçe, chose New York on Wednesday and is expected to take substantially less so that the Liberty can add Vandersloot, sources told ESPN.

Vandersloot, a four-time All-Star and five-time all-WNBA selection, is widely regarded as one of the best point guards in league history. After becoming the first WNBA player to average double-digit assists in a season in 2020, she guided the Chicago Sky to a franchise-first championship in 2021.

Vandersloot had spent her entire WNBA career with the Sky, who drafted her No. 3 overall in 2011 draft out of Gonzaga, before announcing via Instagram on Monday that she would not be returning to Chicago in 2023.

ESPN previously reported that Vandersloot was also considering the Sky, Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm, and that her free agency decision would factor into Stewart’s. Vandersloot grew up in Kent, Washington, not too far from Seattle, so joining the Storm would have marked a sort of homecoming for the point guard, whose jersey will also be retired at Gonzaga later this month.

A source close to the situation told ESPN that Vandersloot had a difficult time saying no to the Storm.

Vandersloot’s wife and former Chicago teammate, sharpshooter Allie Quigley, is sitting out of the 2023 WNBA season but is not officially retiring.

New York, which has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons, will have its sights set on a championship in 2023 after bringing in Vandersloot, Stewart and Jones to surround 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick Sabrina Ionescu.

While Ionescu can play point guard, she fared much better in the 2022 season — securing her first All-Star and all-WNBA nods — when she was moved to an off-ball role with Crystal Dangerfield running the point. Vandersloot should then feasibly slide in nicely next to Ionescu in the backcourt.

On paper, New York’s toughest challenger appears to be the defending champion Las Vegas Aces, who not only return two-time MVP A’ja Wilson, 2022 Finals MVP Chelsea Gray and all-WNBA selection Kelsey Plum, but signed two-time MVP Candace Parker and two-time champion Alysha Clark earlier this week.

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