Bahamian professional women’s basketball player Jonquel ‘JJ’ Jones and the New York Liberty split a mini series with the Chicago Sky this past weekend, ending a four-game winning streak in the 2023 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) season. They won the opener, 77-76, at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday and dropped the encore, 86-82, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Sunday.
Jones and the Liberty now stand at a 4-2 win/loss record, third in the WNBA Standings behind the undefeated Las Vegas Aces (6-0) and Jones’ former team, the Connecticut Sun (6-1). Jones spent six years with the Sun before coming over to New York in an offseason trade. She and the Liberty gave the Sun their only loss of the season.
Coming back from a foot injury, it’s been an inauspicious start for the 29-year-old Bahamian post player, averaging just nine points and four rebounds per game – both at the lowest since her rookie season in the WNBA. She is averaging just 18.3 minutes per game, also the lowest since her rookie season. Defensively, she is averaging career-low numbers in blocks (1.0) and steals (0.2). She is still shooting at a high percentage – 51.1 percent from the field and a career-high 50 percent from deep.
Jones’ teammate Breanna Stewart, who also was an offseason addition, is flourishing in the Liberty’s offensive system, averaging a career-high 23.7 points per game on 52.7 percent shooting from the field. She is also contributing career-high numbers in rebounds (10.5), steals (2.2) and three pointers made at 2.3 per game. Both Jones and Stewart are starting over with a new team after spending all of their careers in Connecticut and Seattle, respectively.
Stewart has been explosive and her production seems to be coming at the cost of Jones – each a former Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the league.
Jones is barely getting more minutes than backup center Stefanie Dolson who is at 14.2 minutes per game. Jones, Stewart and all-star guard Courtney Vandersloot came together to win a title in New York this season, and it’s been working out for the Liberty as they are just coming off a four-game winning streak and are right in the mix, but Jones seems to be the one of the trio whose level of production has been impacted the most thus far. Vandersloot is enjoying her seventh straight season in double figures scoring at 10.5 points per game.
As for the game on Sunday, Kahleah Copper scored 27 points and Courtney Williams added 12, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to help the Sky rally from 19 points down to beat the Liberty in their second game in three days. On Friday, the Liberty rallied for a one-point win on a shot by Stewart with 7.1 seconds left.
This is the second consecutive year that the Sky pulled off a monumental comeback. Last season they rallied from 28 points down to beat the Aces, setting a WNBA record.
In the two games, Jones combined for just 19 points and eight rebounds. She shot 44.4 percent from the field in the first game and 57.1 percent from the floor in the second game – both Commissioner’s Cup contests. The Commissioner’s Cup is an in-season competition throughout the regular season, with players competing for a prize pool and an additional pool of money for charitable and civic organizations. There are 10 games per team in the tournament and the team from each conference with the top record in designated ‘Cup games’ will compete for the Commissioner’s Cup title and a special prize pool. Cup games are the first home game and first road game each team plays against its five conference rivals.
The Liberty return to action on Wednesday, taking on the Minnesota Lynx (1-6) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That game tips off at 7 p.m.
There are high expectations surrounding the Liberty this season, as they look to win the franchise’s first WNBA title. Jones is also looking for her first title, seven years into her career.