New York has exclusive negotiation rights for Johannès, Raincock-Ekunwe, and Gray
As reported earlier this week by Gabe Ibrahim of Winsider, High Post Hoops can confirm via a league source that the New York Liberty have made a transaction that will grant reserved qualifying offers to French guard Marine Johannes, Canadian forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe and the 16th pick in the 2015 WNBA draft, forward Reshanda Gray.
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While reserving these three only increases the possibility of all returning to New York, whether or not all three will sign and make the final roster remains to be seen. Although for Marine Johannés, the only hurdle could be her French National Team Olympic commitments. In a conversation with Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb from October, he has made it clear, that expects for Johannés to “be a part of the Liberty going forward.” Fans of MJ should be encouraged not only by Kolb’s adamant response but by how new Head Coach Walt Hopkins spoke about the 25-year-old, calling her “one of the most underrated and talented players” in the WNBA.
Johannés’ closest friend and confidant on the 2019 New York Liberty was Raincock-Ekunwe, who after playing in 2017 under Bill Laimbeer, took 2018 off to play overseas for Tango Bourges Basket where she met Johannés. Raincock-Ekunwe took giant leaps in 2019, proving herself to be a force on the offensive glass while using her athleticism to make plays whenever she was called on. Last season she proved that she can score inside and outside, making her first career three-ball.
While Kolb hasn’t spoken openly about Raincock-Ekunwe’s future, the Liberty fans have. I can vividly remember one sign during the 2019 home finale which encouraged the GM to bring back the Canadian forward.
Reshanda Gray‘s story can speak for itself. Before her summer with the Liberty in 2019, the last time she stepped on a WNBA court was in 2016. She proved that her on-and-off the court ethos is that of the Liberty’s. Last season she was a box-out queen and a major rebound aggregator. (Her defensive rebound rate was the highest in her career for New York.) While she had some foul trouble, it was her energy and blue-collar player frame of mind that provided a spark.
With Gray, familiarity continues. Having Charmin Smith (briefly) and Brittany Boyd by her side last season paid dividends. But according to Chris Shearn’s And…We’re Off Podcast, she and Hopkins go way back. The new Liberty head coach told Shearn all about how during his player-coach phone call with Gray that he reminisced with her over how far they’ve both come. From Cal to New York. On the air, Hopkins joked that Gray offered to shift positions, taking a role as a three in New York’s new system.
It’s also worth noting that combo guard Bria Hartley remains an unrestricted free agent, as she comes off of six years of total league service. And in light of the New CBA, franchise player Tina Charles, who has been cored twice by New York could potentially sign a new maximum deal, potentially guaranteeing the 7x All-Star $215,000.
Free agency negotiations will begin Jan. 28 and contracts can be signed 13 days later on February 10.
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