Sun trade Williams, acquire January in three-team deal
Courtney Williams wanted to go home to Georgia.
Briann January expressed an interest in playing for the Connecticut Sun.
January and Williams became the major parts involved in a three-way deal Wednesday that involved the Sun, the Phoenix Mercury and Atlanta Dream.
Connecticut signed-and-traded Williams, a free agent, to Atlanta. She started the majority of the last three seasons at off-guard for the Sun.
The Dream sent forwards Jessica Breland and Nia Coffey to the Mercury, and Phoenix dealt January — an 11-year veteran guard — and its 2021 second-round pick to Connecticut. The Mercury also sent the No. 17 pick (second round) in this year's draft to Atlanta.
Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller said Wednesday morning that Williams wanted to be play in Atlanta since it was closest to her hometown of Folkston, Ga. She was a restricted free agent, meaning the Sun had a right to match any contract offers from other teams.
They gave Williams her wish rather than keeping her and running the risk of her sitting out.
“I’m disappointed we couldn’t continue the journey that we were all on (with Williams),” Miller said. “We thought we’ve added pieces to make us even stronger than we’ve been. I’m disappointed, but certainly there’s been years full of memories to remember.
“Through the trade process, Phoenix gave us the opportunity to talk with (Briann) and we had multiple conversations with her. She expressed a strong desire to be in Connecticut.”
Williams, 25, had been the Sun’s best mid-range shooter and was second in scoring (13.2 ppg) and assists (3.8) during the 2019 regular season. She was also third in rebounding (5.6) and helped them reach their first WNBA Finals since 2005.
Oddly enough, wing Shekinna Stricklen signed a free agent deal with Atlanta last week. She played the past five seasons with Connecticut, the final three in which she started.
January, 33, started in 26 of 32 games for the Mercury last season and averaged 26.6 minutes, 6.5 points and 3.3 assists. She’s the second player the Sun have acquired from Phoenix over the last eight days (they traded for forward DeWanna Bonner last week).
“I’m extremely excited to be joining this team and reuniting with DeWanna,” January said. “The Connecticut Sun have a talented roster. I look forward to contributing on both ends of the floor and doing whatever I can to bring this franchise and the Sun fans their first championship.”
January has averaged 8.5 points, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals during her career and played in three WNBA Finals, including 2012 when the Indiana Fever stunned the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in four games. She hasn’t been a high-volume 3-point shooter but has been among the most accurate, averaging 38.2 percent (320 of 838), tying her for 32nd in league history just behind Maya Moore (38.4 percent).
WNBA coaches picked January, drafted No. 6 overall in 2009 by the Fever out of Arizona State, to the All-Defensive First Team in 2012 and 2014-16. She was second-team in 2013 and 2017.
“January is one of the few people that have led the WNBA multiple times in 3-point shooting (2015 and ’18),” Miller said. “We’re getting a real competitor on the defensive end.
“I think, as most people see, a player’s career later on is about legacy and winning championships. With the addition of her teammate, DeWanna Bonner, looking at our roster we had in 2019 and our roster coming back, (January) felt like it would be a great place to join and make a run (at a title).”
The Sun have nine players under contract with reserve guard Rachel Banham as their only unsigned player.
“We’ve gotten older (adding Bonner and January),” Miller said. “We’ve gotten more leadership in the locker room. They have championship pedigrees. We are excited about how that will translate in the locker room and on the floor.
“It’s hard to replicate Courtney’s ability to create shots. It’s hard to replicate on short turnarounds (between games) having those young, bouncy legs. So there are additions that really, really improve us, and there are some things with our departures that we’ll have to look at adjusting.”