We can laugh at Joe Tsai for investing all this money to build a superteam of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Durant and ending up as a failure with all three orchestrating their departures.
We can have yucks at his expense for doing all he could to make New York a Nets town just to have nothing to show for it.
We can taunt him as a failure as a Nets owner.
No one can rip Tsai for his commitment to making the Liberty a WNBA championship contender and a first-class basketball organization. It should be commendable because most NBA owners don’t invest in the WNBA. They use the women’s league as nothing more than a tax write-off.
Tsai and his wife Clara Wu spent money on building a world-class facility for the Liberty to share with the Nets here at the Brooklyn Nets HSS Training Center. They have offered charter jets for the Liberty to travel during the season. They spent money building around Sabrina Ionescu in the offseason by acquiring 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones and Kayla Thornton, along with signing Courtney Vandersloot and Breanna Stewart. They hired a proven winner in Sandy Brondello as head coach last season.
They go to the games. They are involved with the organization. They work with the players.
This is what fans and players like to see when an owner is invested in the team. It’s all they ask for. Most owners in sports focus on making money than winning. In this instance, we really need to hail the Tsai family for doing what they are doing.
This was an organization that was neglected when James Dolan owned the franchise. He treated them like orphans at best. They were just there when he ran the team. Remember the team played in Westchester since they were not deemed good enough to play at Dolan’s Garden anymore. He was more than happy to have them play at the Prudential Center in Newark so that the Garden can be renovated. He also had the gall to go hire Isiah Thomas to operate the Liberty thinking no one in town would notice. This was just a bad look in the sense Thomas was involved in a sexual harassment case with Anucha Browne Saunders during their time with the Knicks.
If Dolan had his way, he would contract the Liberty. He wanted nothing to do with them in the first place. His father Charles agreed to have a WNBA team here just to use New York as a landing spot to build the league.
Tsai wants to do more than that. He wants to elevate the league. He wants to invest in players and the product. He wants to make a gameday experience a good one for the fans.
It seems now some owners want to follow his lead such as Mark Davis of the Las Vegas Aces and new owner Mat Ishbia of the Phoenix Mercury. You can see the impact Tsai is already making in the league.
Tsai has made the Liberty a great organization to go to work by empowering women to higher roles and being the voice of the franchise. Rather than hire a guy just happy to do play-by-play, he hired a professional to do play-by-play in the talented Zora Stephenson, the Milwaukee Bucks sideline reporter.
Obviously, he wants to win plenty of championships as the Liberty owner. But he also doesn’t want to be defined as an owner who is a championship or bust. He likes to look at himself as a trailblazer. He wants to be the guy that put women’s sports on the map. His actions back it up.
He may have a hard time getting people in town to care about the Nets since this is a Knicks town, but he has a chance to get people to care about the Liberty if they start winning championships. The city has always been a basketball town no matter the gender out there. Fans will watch women’s hoops if the product is good.
Not only can the Liberty win a championship, but they can draw a capacity crowd of 17,732 to the point they can take off the curtains that cover seats and have more people sit in there.
The saying goes if you build, they will come. In this case, if the Liberty are putting on a good product, the fans will definitely come. Who didn’t enjoy Stewart setting a franchise single-scoring record by scoring career-high 45 points in the Liberty’s home opener 90-73 victory over the Indiana Fever? Who didn’t enjoy Ionescu being unselfish by passing the ball to Stewart and Vandersloot rather than getting her points?
If the Liberty can become a talking point in town, this would be Tsai’s biggest accomplishment in the sense he did all the work in investing in the product.
You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
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