EXCLUSIVE: Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb Recaps Draft, 'Successful' Offseason (2024)

As one metropolitan championship quest rolls on, another is about to get started a borough away.

The New York Liberty's first attempt to build on the thrilling season of the superteam gets underway on Sunday, when training camp tips off at the team's home of Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Just about two weeks ago and two blocks away, the Liberty capped off its offseason in style, welcoming Mississippi defensive stalwart Marquesha Davis with the penultimate pick of the 2024 WNBA Draft's first round at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Davis and fellow draft picks Esmery Martinez and Jessika Carter are set to join her, along with newly-minted staples such as Sabrina Ionescu, Jonquel Jones, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, Courtney Vandersloot, and reigning WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart.

All of those women and more are a part of the Liberty's 2024 training camp roster, which will partake in two preseason games, starting with May 7's visit to Chicago. The preseason slate should be a prime opportunity for the Liberty's rookies, all of whom stand at least six feet and have developed a reputation for adding length and tenacity in the paint.

"I think I've been pretty clear about what we wanted to achieve in our offseason which was to increase our length and athleticism," Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb told All Knicks, remarking that the interior focus was both intentional and coincidental in a best-player-available approach. "I think you see that especially with a player like Marquesha at the wing spot. I think something that Marquesha has is the ability to really get downhill and get into the paint which creates advantages for us."

Any Liberty offseason short of a surprise leap to the Caitlin Clark-dwelling top spot of the draft was likely going to pale in comparison to the last: Kolb, head coach Sandy Brondello, and CEO Keia Clarke added Jones, Stewart, and Vandersloot to their arsenal next to incumbent All-Stars Ionescu and Laney-Hamilton. The new cast's first blockbuster produced a franchise-best 32-8 record, an in-season championship, and the first seafoam-branded WNBA Finals since 2002.

Amidst the controlled chaos of WNBA free agency, Kolb and Co. got a bulk of their proverbial dirty work done in relative peace this time around: Laney-Hamilton and defensive depth star Kayla Thornton earned new deals just before the playoff run tipped off while Jones and Stewart were likewise retained. Stewart's deal was particularly intriguing, as she forewent core designation that would've given her a supermax one-year deal.

Kolb's long-gestating assembly of All-Stars ... Liberty personnel often inches away from the "superteam" label ... was primarily built on a desire to ensure that it wouldn't be a one-year phenomenon. Though several faces found new homes (i.e. Stefanie Dolson moving back to Washington, Marine Johannes' status up in the air with the Olympics), Kolb believes that goal has been for the direct sequel.

"I would call it successful," Kolb said when describing the New York offseason in a word. "I think on exit media day, I said exactly what we were going to do, which was turn over our bench to more athletic, two-way players so that our coaching staff has more to utilize in certain matchups."

A quiet yet quality offseason culminated in this month's draft, where New York went back on the primary board after taking what was primarily a spectator's role during the 2023 edition (third-rounder Okako Adika will also partake in camp). As if to end the offseason on a poetic note, Kolb said that Davis fulfilled the metropolitan destiny of contributing both now and later, as he was drawn the present and future qualities she had to offer.

"She has tremendous length," Kolb lauded. "Her agility is next level for us."

Kolb remarked that management will look for Davis to "play with force" on defense in the early going and work with Laney-Hamilton and Thornton. On offense, she's expected to be morphed into a "premier transition" threat, an expected recipient of Vandersloot's aerial magic.

But, much like the veteran build, Kolb is preaching patience so as not to overwhelm the former Rebel and capitalize on the active opportunity ahead.

"I know a first round pick is really exciting, it's great," Kolb said. "But we're also understanding that we have people here that have roles and she's going to carve hers out over time."

New York's 28th season of action and fourth full tour of Brooklyn begins with two road games on May 14 and 16 in Washington and Indiana respectively before the latter visits Barclays with hyped top overall pick Clark in tow.

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EXCLUSIVE: Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb Recaps Draft, 'Successful' Offseason (2024)


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