Jonquel Jones, New York Liberty, Liberty, WNBA
Jonquel Jones, No. 35 (Photo by Riley Lorenz - JSN)

Is former All-Star and WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones regaining her swagger?

On Sunday evening, the New York Liberty (16-5) sifted through the Indiana Fever (6-16) with ease. The biggest takeaway from the game was the performance of former All-Star and MVP Liberty center Jonquel Jones. Although Liberty dominated the Fever, 101-83, Jones played a significant role in leading the team to victory. This season, Jones has slightly been disappointing in terms of production, but has begun to turn things around since the All-Star break. In the last two contests, she recorded back-to-back double-doubles and has been the driving force of this offense, along with her intensified defensive energy.

“I think JJ [Jonquel Jones]  did a wonderful job, it’s the JJ we know,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello stated. “Just coming out on both ends of the floor being assertive and really working hard to make it hard for [Aliyah] Boston tonight.”

The Liberty set not only a franchise record, but a WNBA record for most points scored in the opening quarter of the game (44). Within the 44 points, Jones accounted for 10 of those only being outscored by Liberty forward Betnijah Laney with 12. Jones' aggressiveness really helped set the tone for the New York Liberty offense for the remainder of the game. Once Jones begun getting into her rhythm, it naturally opened up the floor for the gifted shooters she is surrounded by. Jones dominated the boards, ultimately giving the Liberty 20-second chance points opportunities. 

“I think just intentionality and purpose, just going into the game understanding that’s how e can be better as a team,” Jones stated in the press conference. “I think that’s the biggest difference between how we’ve been playing recently versus how we played against Dallas.”

“I think when we have the focus we’re a really tough team to play against, and when we don’t allow other teams to hit the glass and get offensive boards we can be lethal,” Jones continued. 

Shift in Mindset for Jonquel Jones

It’s clear something has shifted mentally and physically for Jones as she’s begun the last two games very efficiently and aggressively. Throughout the season, she’s struggled to find her role within the offense outside of rebounding. Instead of being complacent in her role, she’s found ways to be effective and ultimately help the team become that much more of a threat. She explained that she’s beginning to just trust in her training in the offseason and getting to her spots and seeing shots go through has increased her confidence. 

“Anytime you can see the ball go into the hoop to help your momentum it really does help a lot,” Jones said. “ Just coming in with that mindset and relying on the work that I’ve done has benefited me these past few games.” 

Benefits of Jones Gaining Momentum Before Playoffs 

Unfortunately, the Dallas Wings game appeared to wake up the Liberty in the embarrassing loss at home. Recently, the Liberty’s stars are beginning to step up, and the key role players are feeding off the momentum of the game and beginning to come alive. When Jones is relentless on the offensive end, it forces teams to have to double and send extra defenders, which opens up driving lanes for slashers and open shooters on the perimeter. 

More importantly, when Jones appears to be moving her feet and giving energy on defense, it allows the guards to gamble more and be more aggressive. On Sunday evening, the Liberty defense caused 15 turnovers that led to easy transition points. Jones' defensive presence can change the entire dynamic of how teams wish to attack the Liberty moving forward. 

“In the Dallas game, we didn’t play hard enough and we didn’t play together well enough,” Brondello stated. “We didn’t get any deflections and we only created two turnovers all game. So that showed that there was no aggressiveness or disruptiveness and that’s what we focused on.”

“We don’t want to be good, in fact we want to be great so it takes focus on every single possession,” Brondello continued. “It may not always be perfect, however having activity on and off the ball and having a physical presence helped us. I want to keep building on it, although we’ve had some lapses now and then you can see the trust building.”

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