Amanda Zahui B opts to leave Liberty for Sparks in free agency

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Sarah Valenzuela, New York Daily News
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Amanda Zahui B entered WNBA free agency with more questions than answers.

She left the Bradenton, Fla., bubble last season an unrestricted free agent and, for the first time since she signed with the Liberty in 2016, had no idea where she would play in 2021.

“I like to plan everything,” Zahui B said. “I like to have everything in front of me. So waiting while I was overseas for the time to come closer and then being out here and not really knowing, I think that was the most frustrating part. Once I actually allowed myself to be out there and have conversations, I started to appreciate it more.

“It’s more so a blessing that I finally actually made it to my seventh year, and I’m a free agent,” she added. “I never thought that day would actually come.”

Zahui B’s signing status changed Thursday when the Los Angeles Sparks announced the center would be joining them for the upcoming season.

“I am so excited to be playing for L.A. Sparks,” Zahui B said Friday during her introductory press conference with her new team. “And I would also like to thank everyone that congratulated me and wished me well all the way from New York. You guys will always be in my heart and I really appreciate you guys.”

It’s a little bit of a full circle moment for the 27-year-old from Sweden, who’s had some of her best games with the Liberty while playing at the Staples Center against the Sparks.

The Liberty didn’t get to play in Los Angeles last season, but on June 15, 2019, Zahui B lit up the Staples Center, shooting 81.3% from the field (13-16), 87.5% from three-point range (7-8), 100% of her free throw (4-4), seven rebounds, an assist, a steal and three blocks. She dropped 35 points in 37 minutes that game. Then there’s her game in L.A. on June 24, 2018, when she dropped 21 points, shooting 60% from the field, in 23 minutes of play in Los Angeles.

Now, Zahui B can call the Staples Center her home as well, and with it, she’ll have new expectations with a team that’s made the playoffs in 20 of 24 seasons in the league. The Sparks have won three WNBA titles, the most recent in 2016.

“There’s a winning culture here right, we all know that,” Zahui B said. “I have teammates now that have won multiple championships and those are some of the best players in the world.”

It wasn’t a diss to her former team. It was a statement of fact.

Last season wasn’t ideal for the Liberty (2-20) and Zahui B knows that well. She made improvements to her game, but last season wasn’t about basketball. It was about advocating for racial and social justice. Even though the mental toll was bigger than the physical at times, Zahui B finished the pandemic-shortened season averaging 9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. She’ll need to up the ante in L.A., something Sparks coach Derek Fisher told her outright before she signed.

“I was also being told that he was going to push me and just make me greater,” Zahui B said, “and I appreciate that honesty, saying that I’m not where I’m supposed to be yet but he is willing to work with me and just push me there.”