The New York Liberty are on the big surprises of the early WNBA season. At 5-1, they are tied with the Connecticut Sun for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Sabrina Ionescu, after playing just two games in the Wubble due to injury, is averaging 17.8 points, 7.8 assists, and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting almost 50 percent from three, while Betnijah Laney, last year’s Most Improved Player and one of New York’s big free agent signings, is off to a torrid start and leading the team in scoring. Life is mostly good for the Liberty.
The one missing piece, however, is Natasha Howard. The veteran forward was acquired in a trade in the offseason with Seattle Storm and was expected to be one the team’s top players. She missed the start of the season while finishing up her commitments to her team in Italy and has played just two games this year.
Now, however, Howard will miss 4-6 weeks with an MCL sprain, according to the Liberty. The injury occurred in the fourth quarter Monday in a win against the Dallas Wings.
Natasha Howard Medical Update: An MRI and clinical exam @HSpecialSurgery on Tuesday, May 25 revealed the diagnosis of a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain. Howard will be unavailable for 4-6 weeks. More info: https://t.co/0wk4D1OluJ pic.twitter.com/g6r3wyBntM
— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) May 26, 2021
Howard was New York’s major offseason acquisition. She was the 2019 WNBA Defense Player of the Year, won titles in 2018 and 2020 with the Storm and one in 2017 with the Minnesota Lynx. Acquired Howard cost the Liberty the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft (which became Charli Collier) and was a clear win-now move for the Liberty.
Howard missing 4-6 weeks means she could return in early-to-mid July. That does perhaps mean that, due to the Olympics break in July, she will not return until August when the WNBA resumes play mid-month. And while the Liberty look like a team that can win without her (and already have this year) it’s a blow to not have Howard for a big chunk of the season.