Breanna Stewart greeted with cheers returning to Seattle as member of Liberty

Breanna Stewart spent some time with Seattle fans before leading the Liberty to victory over the Storm.  (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Breanna Stewart spent some time with Seattle fans before leading the Liberty to victory over the Storm. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Breanna Stewart played six seasons with the Seattle Storm, winning two WNBA championships and an MVP as a four-time All-Star.

On Tuesday, she made her return to Seattle for the first time in a visiting uniform after signing as a free agent in February with the New York Liberty. She led the Liberty to an 86-78 victory after receiving a warm pre-match reception from opposing fans.

Stewart greeted with cheers

Stewart signed autographs for fans before the game, including on his old Storm jersey. When her name was announced before the match, fans greeted her widely with cheers and applause, and many in attendance rose from their seats.

It was a stark contrast to another high-profile return to Seattle that saw Seahawks fans roundly boo Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson in his first game last season after joining the Denver Broncos.

Stewart starts slow, ends strong

The focus remained on Stewart after the whistleblower. She had 8 points on just four shots in the first half and she repeatedly faced double and sometimes triple teams from a Storm defense eager to slow her down. With the hyper focus on Stewart, the New York offense thrived elsewhere as they had 14 assists on 15 first-half field goals en route to a 46-39 lead.

Stewart would not stay contained as she found her places and asserted her offense after halftime. She broke through in the third quarter with 10 points and 6 rebounds. A 3-point play on a disputed layup with the shot clock running out extended New York’s lead to 66-53.

Seattle never contested New York’s lead from there as the Liberty took an 8-point victory.

Stewart finished the game with a team-high 25 points and 11 rebounds. She also had 2 blocks and two interceptions. Ionesco, meanwhile, posted a season-high 6 3-pointers on 10 attempts en route to 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Jewell Loyd led the Storm with 26 points, while Ezi Magbegor had 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Landscaping in New York

Stewart joined the Storm in 2016 as UConn’s first overall pick. She made the investment as Finals MVP twice while leading the storm to championships in 2018 and 2020. This offseason, she made the switch and joined fellow All-Stars Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot. alongside rising star Ionescu to form a super team in New York. It was an unprecedented basketball opportunity for Stewart, but one that forced her to leave some good things behind in Seattle.

Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Stewart spoke with ESPN about feelings about an offseason trip to Seattle following his decision to join New York.

“It’s a lot of bittersweet feelings,” Stewart said. “At that moment, I thought to myself, did I make the right decision? Because coming back here, I think these are all my spots, and these are my friends and this is all I know. But, you know, change is good.

The decision pays early dividends.

A Liberty team that finished 16-20 last season left Tuesday’s win at 3-1. Stewart has thrived on the all-star team averaging 26 points, 10 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game entering Tuesday, which would be career highs if extended for the full season.

Expectations are high in New York this season, where the Liberty are set to challenge for their first WNBA championship.

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