SEATTLE — Breanna Stewart got right to the point: Returning to Seattle “feels good, but also very weird.”
Back in Climate Pledge Arena on Tuesday night, Stewart led her new team, the Liberty, to its first road win of the young season, an 86-78 victory over her old team, the Storm.
Stewart finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in 37:24 of playing time. She added two steals and two blocks to back up Sabrina Ionescu’s 20 points.
It was her first time as a visitor to the building and first trip back as a player since she signed a one-year contract with the Liberty as a free agent earlier this year, leaving behind the only WNBA city she had called home since entering the league in 2016.
“It was a really difficult decision to leave Seattle to go to New York — and it still is difficult when I think about it,” Stewart said before the game. “I flew back here after finishing with Fenerbahce [the Turkish League team she played for this winter and spring] because [Seattle is] where my house is and all of our stuff. It was those moments when you have a little bit of self-doubt. I’m seeing all my friends and all those spots where I used to go.”
Stewart said she’s happy for her new chapter. She had conversations with the Liberty prior to the 2022 season, before ultimately re-signing with the Storm for one year. Seattle reached the WNBA semifinals before losing to Las Vegas for the championship.
“Change isn’t always a bad thing. I still have a lot of amazing memories. I grew up here, got married here, started a family here,” Stewart said.
Seattle took Stewart with the overall No. 1 selection in the 2016 draft out of Connecticut. She led the Storm to WNBA championships in 2018 and 2020. She was the WNBA Finals MVP both of those years, and also was the league MVP in 2018.
Through her seven seasons with the Storm, Stewart averaged 20.3 points per game. Stewart was greeted with a smattering of cheers from the crowd during pregame introductions.
By the time Stewart got to New York, the Liberty already had acquired 2021 league MVP Jonquel Jones from the Connecticut Sun. The day after Stewart’s announcement, veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot also signed with the club.
After the Liberty lost their opener at Washington, they rolled past Indiana and Connecticut before heading to Seattle. In the Indiana game, Stewart poured in a career-high and franchise-record 45 points.
The Liberty (3-1) are regarded as the primary challengers to defending champion Las Vegas.
“Obviously, we want to be able to win and contend for a championship,” Stewart said. “But it’s realizing that when you put all these pieces together in a short amount of time, it’s going to take time to make sure that we win the day. We need to grow one practice, one game at a time.”