Guard Courtney Williams, a key member of the Connecticut Sun's run to the WNBA Finals last season, was traded to the Atlanta Dream in a three-team deal Wednesday.
There, she will join another Sun starter from last season, guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen, who signed with the Dream as a free agent over the weekend.
The Dream traded forwards Jessica Breland and Nia Coffey to the Phoenix Mercury, who sent the No. 17 overall pick in the upcoming WNBA draft to Atlanta. The Mercury also sent veteran guard Briann January and a 2021 second-round pick to the Sun to complete the deal.
Connecticut Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller made it clear that Williams wanted the trade.
"Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and all the loyalty and support we've shown Courtney over the last four seasons, it became clear she no longer wanted to return to Connecticut,'' he said. "I will look back fondly on the memories we created together, but my focus as always is with the players that have a burning desire to help the Connecticut Sun hang the franchise's first championship banner.''
Williams disputed her former coach's take, posting on Instagram that she "Never intended nor wanted to leave CT and I hope the Connecticut fans and my teammates really understand that. Thank you to the fans and my teammates for really accepting a kid like me and my different ways of doing things. Y'all are really something special and I love y'all forever!''
View this post on Instagram
Mannn Connecticut I love y'all so much! Y'all showed me so much love, and honestly helped me step into the player I am today. This process was definitely not an easy one for me, and it truly showed me that it's all about business, and that loyalty and emotion has no place in these type of negotiations. This was a hard pill for me to swallow, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hurt throughout this process. It's hard to detach your feelings when you've given a program so much of you and have grown 4 years with the same group of ppl. I know that's how it goes though, I learned that the hard way. Connecticut traded for me, and gave me an opportunity coming out of college and I'm forever grateful. Don't get caught up in all the rumors that you may hear about why I left. I never intended nor wanted to leave CT and I hope the Connecticut fans and my teammates really understand that.. Thank you to the fans and my teammates for really accepting a kid like me and my different ways of doing things. Y'all are really something special and I love y'all forever! Sidenote: the word loyalty is thrown around so loosely these days, and maybe I was raised differently, but genuine loyalty is shown through the good or the bad. At the bare minimum I could have gotten a "thank you" like every other player that decided not to rejoin the team, but like I said previously they continue to show me that business is business. SEE YOU SOON ATLANTA!
Williams was the Sun's second-leading scorer last season (13.2 PPG), and her exuberant personality made her a fan favorite. She and Stricklen are among several new faces with the Dream, including center Kalani Brown, forward Glory Johnson and guard Alexis Jones. The longtime face of the Dream, Angel McCoughtry, signed as a free agent with the Las Vegas Aces on Feb. 10.
"The addition of Courtney Williams brings us a dynamic scorer who thrives in the big moment," Dream coach Nicki Collen said. "Courtney is arguably the best midrange scorer in the WNBA but has also become a very efficient 3-point shooter, which will keep defenses honest. While one of the smaller players in the league, she attacks the boards at both ends of the floor fearlessly and effectively."
January played in two WNBA Finals during her nine seasons with the Indiana Fever, who drafted her in 2009. She spent the past two seasons with the Mercury.
"We're excited to add two highly skilled, high-character players in Jessica and Nia," Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in a news release. "We know they will make individual contributions this year, but we are even more excited about what their addition means for our overall roster. Adding Jessica, one of the league's best rebounders, to our frontcourt, which already includes the league's best center, Brittney Griner, and All-Rookie Team selection Brianna Turner is big for us.
"Adding a player like Nia, who can play multiple positions and shot 38 percent from 3 last year, after already adding Skylar Diggins-Smith and Bria Hartley, made this deal very appealing."
Breland, a 6-foot-2, eight-year veteran, started all 33 games for the Dream last season, averaging 7.5 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds and shooting a career-best 87.9% from the foul line. She is one of seven current WNBA players with at least 1,000 career points, 1,000 rebounds and 300 blocks, a list that includes new teammate Griner.
Coffey, a 6-foot-1, fourth-year forward, is coming off a season in which she averaged 5.0 points and a career-best 2.8 rebounds in 28 games for the Dream while shooting 37.9% from 3-point range.
This was the Mercury's fourth move since Feb. 11. They also added Diggins-Smith and Hartley.
ESPN's Josh Weinfuss and The Associated Press contributed to this report.