Kia Nurse is taking her talents south to Phoenix in Year 4 as the Canadian was traded from New York in a three-team deal that also saw Seattle’s Natasha Howard head to the Liberty.
Nurse, who was drafted 10th overall by New York in 2018, averaged 12.2 points and 2.9 rebounds a game during the 2020 bubble season, despite dealing with an ankle injury in the first game of the campaign.
“There were a lot of good things on the court in terms of improvement like my ability to move the ball, my assists rate went up — that was different for me,” Nurse said.
“Obviously it would’ve been different for me had I not been injured in the first eight minutes of the season, but I think also there’s the ability to sit in the room and understand this is what went well, this is what went wrong.”
The third-year guard’s leadership shone during the season on a young team with players like Jazmine Jones and Jocelyn Willoughby stepping up to play veteran opponents in Seattle and Phoenix. The loss of Asia Durr and the injury to 2020 first-overall pick Sabrina Ionescu’s also provided a test.
Despite Nurse leading the team in points and minutes per game, the young Liberty squad went 2-20 and was the first team eliminated from playoff contention.
“Last season there were lots of ups and lots of downs. There were probably certain ways that I could’ve handled situations better than others but I want to take the lessons from the things that I was good at, the things that I was improving on and continue to build those throughout my game,” Nurse said.
Phoenix’s season ended on a much higher note than New York’s, with Shey Peddy dropping a buzzer-beater three against the Washington Mystics, who released her the season before, to send Phoenix to the second round of the playoffs where they would fall to the Minnesota Lynx.
“I’m excited to jump in and be part of a team that already has such a great foundation, playing alongside some really incredible players who have made their own way,” Nurse said.
Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi both averaged over 17 points per game in 2020, including combining for 55 points against the Indiana Fever to secure their playoff spot, with Bria Hartley stepping into a shooting guard position for Phoenix’s offence and contributing an average of 14.6 points of her own.
“I’m extremely excited to play alongside DT. Obviously, I’ve looked up to her and watched her play, she’s the GOAT for a reason, and I’m really excited to learn,” Nurse said.
Nurse’s ability to shoot will help Phoenix move Hartley to point guard, a more natural position for her, and let Nurse handle more scoring responsibility with her outside stroke and her ability to get to the basket thanks to her size.
“For me, I’m going to go in and play hard every single game, understanding and going into every game with the confidence that we can put our foot down on the gas and win games.”