Things have been rather quiet since WNBA free agency officially opened on Jan. 15, but that all changed on Friday morning when Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports dropped a stunning bit of information: Breanna Stewart had a meeting with the New York Liberty earlier this week.
The Seattle Storm star is an unrestricted free agent, and one of the biggest names on the market this winter. At just 27 years old, Stewart has already accomplished everything there is to do in the game of basketball at the collegiate, professional and international levels. The No. 1 overall pick in 2016, Stewart already has two titles, two Finals MVPs and an MVP to her name, and that's despite missing the entire 2019 season due to a torn Achilles tendon.
At worst, she's the second-best player in the world, and the fact that she's even reached unrestricted free agency is a big deal. But for various reasons, including comments Stewart herself has made, the general assumption was that she would re-sign with the Storm. And that still seems to be the most likely scenario.
"Seattle has always been my home," Stewart said after the Storm were eliminated from the playoffs last season -- a loss she didn't play in due to an Achilles injury that required minor surgery. "It's where I've grown up. It's where my career has continued to blossom. I plan on being back unless something crazy happens."
In an interview with Forbes in December, Stewart reiterated those thoughts.
"My heart is in Seattle, and I plan to be back playing in the new arena, playing in Climate Pledge," Stewart said. "Overall, I think the offseason is going really well — obviously taking some time away from basketball and making sure I'm rehabbing and recovering well."
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Some of the Storm's other offseason maneuvers also suggest Stewart will be back. Legendary point guard Sue Bird recently announced that she's going to put off retirement, and it's hard to imagine Bird would be back for a 21st season without a solid belief that she would be playing with Stewart. The team also decided to use their "core designation" (an NFL franchise tag-like system that gives teams exclusive negotiating rights with a player) on Jewell Loyd instead of Stewart. If they had even an inkling that Stewart, already one of the best players of all time, might leave, they would have "cored" her in a heartbeat.
It's worth noting that Stewart is a New York native, and has a close relationship with Kevin Durant, who also plays in Brooklyn with the Nets. The Liberty, meanwhile, have a talented roster that features up-and-coming star Sabrina Ionescu, 2020 Most Improved player Betnijah Laney and two of Stewart's former Storm teammates, Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb. And then there are the commercial opportunities that come with playing in the league's biggest market.
There are a lot of draws to New York, and you can certainly understand why Stewart took the meeting with the Liberty. After all, what's the point of being an unrestricted free agent if you don't at least see what other teams have to offer. But with all that being said, Storm fans shouldn't start panicking. Most signs still point to Stewart re-signing with the Storm when deals can be made official on Feb. 1.