Jonquel Jones on WNBA Commissioner’s Cup being played at UBS Arena: ‘To me it feels like a road game’

Tuesday morning’s shootaround at UBS Arena had the makings of a home venue before the New York Liberty’s Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game.

The tunnel leading to the court featured Liberty seafoam green colors; the team’s logo were displayed on the hardwood floors; and screens wrapped around the arena showed New York as the home team.

But the vibe hours before the showdown against the Minnesota Lynx was that UBS Arena didn’t feel like home. And that the game should undoubtedly be held at Barclays Center.

“To me it feels like a road game,” Liberty star Jonquel Jones said Tuesday. “Having to pack my [outfit] in a suitcase and all that stuff, get on a bus.”

Plans for Tuesday’s Commissioner’s Cup title game changed after the Liberty learned last week its home arena was unavailable with Barclays Center preparing for Wednesday’s NBA Draft.

With Barclays Center unable to turn the arena around overnight, the Liberty and Lynx’s matchup got rerouted to Long Island’s UBS Arena, which is about an hour drive away from the Brooklyn arena. Players loaded the team bus with their luggage, like they would for an away game. And after Tuesday’s shootaround, the team arranged to stay near UBS Arena instead of making the 18-mile trip to and from the venue before tip-off.

“Annoyed,” Jones described herself before stepping on the court for shootaround. “A little bit frustrated especially because the Commissioner’s Cup schedule was tough.”

The Liberty clinched “home-court advantage” after finishing 5-0 in the qualifying road this month. The team stayed perfect while playing those five games in eight days, including a back-to-back against the Connecticut Sun on June 8 and Washington Mystics on June 9.

The Lynx finished 4-1 while also playing five games in eight days, but they did so without enduring a back-to-back. The Lynx also had two days of rest between its first two Cup games. The Liberty didn’t have more than one game of rest during the qualifying round.

In her team’s final two Cup games, Jones played some of her best basketball of the season. In the Liberty’s final qualifying round game against the Mystics on June 9, Jones shot 11 for 15 on the night, including 4-of-5 shooting in the fourth en route to the perfect 5-0 Cup game record.

“We wanted to cement that home-court advantage and we understood that the game against [the Mystics] was big because of that,” Jones said. Last year’s Commissioner’s Cup Game MVP added that some of her frustration stems from the WNBA not exploring every “avenue” to make sure the title game was played at Barclays Center.

When schedules were initially released during the winter, the Liberty contacted the league about the potential arena conflict, a source familiar with the situation told the New York Daily News. And when the Liberty clinched home-court advantage for the in-season tournament title game earlier this month, the team offered to play the July 2 regular-season matchup against the Lynx as the championship game, a source said.

Making that matchup a Commissioner’s Cup title game would’ve avoided both teams from adding another game to an already dense schedule. The Lynx, however, declined the offer, a source said.

The source added the league gave the Liberty the option of playing the title game in Minnesota. The Liberty declined that offer.

“And I feel like there could have been a little bit more of cooperation and communication to try to make it work for us to kind of give us what we work for. And it didn’t really happen.

“There’s definitely gonna be some conversations that we have to have to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other team.”

Jones’ teammate, Breanna Stewart, expressed her frustration with the arrangement as well.

“I think we worked really hard for home-court advantage and it would be nice if our home court was actually available before we choose the date that the event was gonna be,” Stewart said Tuesday.

Stewart, the Liberty’s often vocal leader on team and league-wide issues, noted the change would hinder fans’ ability to actually attend the game.

“Hoping that they’ll be able to come out to Long Island because most people work. Most people have other things going on,” Stewart said. She stayed positive, noting that the game being in Long Island could give an opportunity to fans that have yet to attend a game at Barclays Center or anywhere else in the WNBA.

Maybe that positivity rubbed off from Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello. The head coach said the trip to shootaround allowed her to catch up on some sleep after some long days. But she also acknowledged that this matchup doesn’t totally feel like a home game.

“We play well on the road. We treat it like a semi-road game, but we’re still in New York with our fans,” she said.