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Jonquel Jones says Kelsey Plum’s ‘classless’ comments had some truth for Liberty

At first, Kelsey Plum’s comments hurt Jonquel Jones.

This came just after the Liberty lost to the Aces in the WNBA finals in October, but Plum told reporters inside Barclays Center that the Liberty was “a team, but we’re not a team.”

She said the team had strong individual players but “didn’t care about each other.” The crux of her argument was that you can’t just beat a superteam with a microwave. Plumb later said the claim was taken out of context.

Kelsey Plum told reporters after last year’s WNBA finals that the Liberty “don’t care about each other.” Getty Images

It was tough because the emotions were so fresh, Jones said.

The Liberty’s bid for their first franchise title faltered in Game 4.

Plumb’s comments continued:

And in an exit interview with reporters, Jones called her answers “degrading” and slammed the Aces star for choosing to “essentially put someone else down” instead of celebrating the team’s second consecutive championship.

Eight months later, reflecting on what went wrong in that series ahead of the Liberty-Aces’ first game of 2024 on Saturday at Michelob Ultra Arena, Jones told The Post that Plum had “some validity in what he said.”

The Liberty started 2024 with an 11-2 record, but didn’t have the cohesion to come within one win of tying its franchise-best record.

New York Liberty forward Jonquel Jones said Plum’s comments hurt because wounds have not yet healed. Corey Shipkin (NY Post)

The pain of having his title dreams dashed is still there, and for Jones, at least, it may never truly heal.

But the gaps in teamwork that were a strength for the Aces and a weakness for the Liberty last year — and most fundamentally, the lack of time together on the same court — are slowly fading as the WNBA’s new rivalries are rekindled.

“[Plum] “It definitely gave us a different perspective,” Jones said Wednesday, “and I saw that. When I went back and watched the game, I saw what she saw. It felt like we were all individually just going for that one win, instead of coming together as a team and trying to win.”

Through 13 games in 2024, the Liberty have benefited from returning the same starters and have assembled a bench that continues to play its role.

They have played and won the last three games without starting point guard Courtney VanderSloot.

“We’re not perfect,” Jones said, “but we definitely feel like we’re leaps and bounds better than last year.”

Still, the Ace stands as the gold standard.

The team ended its first three-game losing streak since 2019 on Thursday and nearly its entire championship roster remains intact.

A’ja Wilson has emerged as an early MVP candidate.

And even if the Liberty can contain Wilson, there are secondary scoring sources lurking like Plum and Jackie Young.

For assistant coach Olaf Lange, it was clear in the final that the Liberty was unable to execute the defensive rotations necessary to counter the Aces’ multiple threats.

This depth of roster and star-studded lineup is what helped create the WNBA rivalry in the first place.

The Liberty and Aces faced each other four times in August and four more times two months later, with both teams scoring impressive victories.

The Liberty won the Commissioner’s Cup by 19 points.

The Aces have reached the pinnacle of the sport for the second consecutive season.

Collectively, they helped set ratings records and symbolized the growth of the league, which then saw the emergence of rookies like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Cameron Brink who continued to redefine television ratings standards.

Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark and Cameron Brink in the WNBA Draft. AP

“Rivalries in general are a great thing for the WNBA,” Liberty University coach Sandy Brondello said.

But Jones said the teetering fourth quarter on Sunday, with the Mystics leading the Liberty, then 0-12, doesn’t diminish the Liberty-Aces matchup. Brondello and Stewart stressed the Liberty wouldn’t approach the game differently despite how last year played out, because the two teams can coexist and would benefit the league.

The Aces were the team that stopped the Liberty from scripting a storybook ending to a year in which they brought the stars together to try and make sense of everything instantly.

They were the defense that got the final stop in the fourth quarter of Game 4. VanderSloot’s miss was the backdrop for Plumb’s comments that quickly became national headlines and caused Stewart to regret not taking a jump shot.

New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart guards Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen. Corey Shipkin (NY Post)

“This year is different,” Stewart said Wednesday. “It’s a new year. We have to bounce back from what happened last year.”

But it all shaped the aura of Liberty and the Aces and the 40 minutes they spent on the same court. And on Saturday, the next chapter begins.