Mystics add Kristi Toliver, Brittney Sykes on first day of free agency

Mystics add Kristi Toliver, Brittney Sykes on first day of free agency

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The Washington Mystics didn’t win free agency’s biggest prize on Wednesday after Breanna Stewart joined the New York Liberty, but they added two major plays while striving to stay in contention for the WNBA title.

The organization added defensive star Brittney Sykes and three-time star Kristi Toliver on the first day teams were able to sign free agents. Guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough will also return to Washington, the team announced.

Mystics will have work to do; the Liberty and Las Vegas Aces are now WNBA favorites. New York has a core of 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones, 2018 MVP Stewart and 2020 No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu. The Aces, the defending champions, already had defending MVP A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray before adding two-time MVP Candace Parker and two-time WNBA champion Alysha Clark, who spent the previous two seasons with Washington.

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The Mystics have signed Sykes, who turns 29 next week, to a three-year contract. She averaged 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists for the Los Angeles Sparks last season. The 5-foot-9 guard was named to the WNBA defensive team three times — including once to the first team — and led the league in steals the past two seasons.

“Brittney was a prime target for us in free agency,” Mystics general manager Mike Thibault said in a statement. “She brings a skill set to our backcourt that complements our other perimeter players perfectly. Its transition speed [and] the ability to get to the basket or find open teammates will allow us to pick up our attacking pace and flow. She can play in attack and defense at three positions.

The signing of Toliver, the former Maryland star who helped the Mystics to the 2019 title, was unexpected. The 36-year-old played 13 seasons and was with Washington from 2017 to 2019, when she was named an All-Star twice. She announced her return on Instagram.

“I am thrilled to announce that I will be returning to the exceptional organization and team, the Washington Mystics,” Toliver wrote. “DC is my home, these teammates are my family and I look forward to the opportunity to bring another banner to the District.”

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Toliver is an assistant coach for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and plans to join Washington at the end of their season. Toliver did the same last season, joining the Sparks in mid-June after Dallas lost in the Western Conference Finals. In 11 games, she averaged a career-low 5.9 points while shooting a game-high 37.3%.

Walker-Kimbrough has signed a guaranteed two-year contract, according to a person familiar with the deal. Another Maryland product, she was the Mystics’ No. 6 pick in 2017 and averaged 6.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals as a key reserve. last season.

“Shatori has been integral to the Mystics’ success and was a top priority for us during free agency,” Thibault said in a statement. “His ability and energy at both ends of the pitch has a big impact on the way we play. Her offensive game continues to develop and she has become an excellent defender at all perimeter positions. We see her as a mainstay on our roster.

The list quickly filled around the core of Elena Delle Donne, Ariel Atkins, Natasha Cloud, Myisha Hines-Allen and Shakira Austin. Sykes, Toliver and Walker-Kimbrough bring the number to eight. Evina Westbrook and Jazmine Jones have signed training camp contracts, and Tianna Hawkins is also expected to be back on a camp deal. The Mystics still need big backing Austin and Delle Donne, and they’ve had talks with free agent Elizabeth Williams. WNBA teams may have a roster of 12 players, but most only keep 11 to help with the salary cap.

The Mystics own the No. 4 draft pick, which is slated for April 10.

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