Commissioner's Cup title game moved to UBS Arena due to NBA draft

New York's strong second half powers Liberty over Aces (2:06)

Jonquel Jones scores a career-high 34 points as the Liberty defeat the Aces 90-82. (2:06)

The 2024 WNBA Commissioner's Cup Championship Game has been moved from Brooklyn's Barclays Center to UBS Arena on Long Island, the league announced Monday.

With Barclays Center hosting the NBA draft on June 26, the arena cannot hold the in-season tournament's final there as scheduled the day prior. The New York Liberty, winners of the 2023 Commissioner's Cup, earned the right to host the Minnesota Lynx in the championship as the Liberty hold the better regular-season winning percentage between the two teams.

The Liberty, however, alerted the WNBA to the potential arena conflict upon the release of the tournament's new format and scheduling in December, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN.

The extensive multiday load-in process for ESPN and the NBA heading into the draft -- which has been held at Barclays each year since 2013 (excluding 2020) -- precludes the arena from accommodating a game on June 25. But the league told the Liberty at that time it would have to find an alternate venue, the source said.

By early June, the league told New York if it clinched a spot in the final, it could play the championship game on the court of the Western Conference representative, the source added. But the Liberty -- who won all five of their Commissioner's Cup games within the first nine days of June -- rejected that route with the knowledge UBS Arena would be an option for an alternate venue.

There was an effort to make the teams' July 2 preexisting regular-season meeting in New York count as the Commissioner's Cup Championship, but Minnesota declined that option, a source said.

"July 2nd is a regular season game, not the date of the Commissioner's Cup. All WNBA teams were notified November 1, 2023 that the 2024 Commissioner's Cup would take place June 25th," the Lynx said in a statement to ESPN. "Both the league and the Liberty knew of the Barclays conflict for the Commissioner's Cup date and have had ample time to resolve."

The Liberty also explored holding the final at Barclays on June 24 with a half-load-in ahead of the draft, which would necessitate moving a regular-season road game against the Atlanta Dream from June 23 to June 26, but that possibility did not pan out.

By the time the league announced the arena change and put tickets on sale, it was eight days after New York had initially clinched home-court advantage in the Championship Game with its June 9 win over Connecticut.

"We are excited for the opportunity to defend our Commissioner's Cup title in New York, and we appreciate our fans' unwavering support of our team," Liberty CEO Keia Clarke said in a statement about the move to the home venue of the NHL's New York Islanders. "While we wish we could have brought this game to our fans in our home arena, we are grateful to UBS Arena for accommodating us and providing a world-class venue in New York."

"All you can do is control the controllables -- it's cliché like coaches say all the time, but it's true," Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said over the weekend prior to the league's announcement. "You just need to focus on what you're supposed to do, and that's go out there and play great basketball. Regardless of where it is, it doesn't matter. Barclays is great, but if it's not available, we go somewhere else."

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement that the draft "created an unavoidable conflict for use" of Barclays Center.

"We are working closely with the New York Liberty on this one-game relocation to UBS Arena and to provide the best possible experience for attendees and participants at the WNBA Commissioner's Cup Championship," Bass said. "We apologize for any inconvenience to the Liberty's season ticket holders and loyal fans."

The game will take place on June 25 at 8 p.m. ET and will air on Amazon Prime Video. Now in its fourth year, the Commissioner's Cup featured a revamped format this season with each team playing five games, one against each of their in-conference rivals, while the squads in the final will duel for a $500,000 cash prize pool. A charitable component throughout the tournament allows participating teams to earn donations for a local organization of their choosing.

The Liberty are second in the WNBA standings with a 12-2 record. Their last loss came to the third-place Lynx (10-3).