SEATTLE — Breanna Stewart got right to the point: Returning to Seattle “feels good, but also very weird.”
Stewart was back in Climate Pledge Arena on Tuesday as the New York Liberty faced the Seattle Storm. It was her first time as a visitor inside the building and first trip back as a player since announcing earlier this year that she would sign a one-year contract with the Liberty as a free agent, leaving behind the only WNBA city she had called home since entering the league in 2016.
“It was a really difficult decision to leave Seattle to go to New York – and it still is difficult when I think about it,” Stewart said prior to leading the Liberty to an 86-78 win over the Storm. “I flew back here after finishing with Fenerbache because that’s where my house is and all of our stuff. It was those moments when you have a little bit of self-doubt. I’m seeing all my friends and all those spots where I used to go.
But, Stewart said she’s happy for the new chapter in New York. She had conversations with the Liberty during the offseason before the 2022 season, before ultimately re-signing with the Storm for one year. Seattle reached the WNBA semifinals before losing to Las Vegas.
“Change isn’t always a bad thing. I still have a lot of amazing memories. I grew up here, got married here, started a family here,” Stewart said.
It was Seattle that took Stewart with the overall No. 1 selection in the 2016 draft. She subsequently led the team to WNBA championships in 2018 and 2020. She was the WNBA Finals MVP both of those years, and also was the league MVP in 2018.
Through her seven seasons with the Storm, Stewart averaged 20.3 points per game. She had 25 points and 11 rebounds in her return to Seattle, her third double-double in four games. Stewart was greeted with a smattering of cheers from the crowd during pregame introductions.
And she made a point of reconnecting with former teammate Sue Bird afterward.
By the time Stewart got to New York, the team already had acquired 2021 league MVP Jonquel Jones from Connecticut. The day after Stewart’s announcement, veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot also signed with New York.
The Liberty lost their opener at Washington, 80-64, but then rolled past Indiana, 90-73, and Connecticut, 81-65 before heading to Seattle. In the Indiana game, Stewart poured in a career-high and franchise-record 45 points.
New York is regarded as the primary challenger to defending champion Las Vegas.
“Obviously, we want to be able to win and contend for a championship,” Stewart said. “But it’s realizing that when you put all these pieces together in a short amount of time, it’s going to take time to make sure that we win the day. We need to grow one practice, one game at a time.”
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