June 7, 2021
After the best-laid plans…seven straight losses
How will the Chicago Sky recover?
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“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley. (often go awry)
I lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
(To A Mouse)
Collected Poems of Robert Burns
Ah yes…the best-laid plans of mice and men…so often thwarted by forces beyond one’s imagination.
Not so long ago, the Chicago Sky looked like they had the best-laid plan for a WNBA championship trophy. At least on paper:
Candace Parker, hometown hero, WNBA champion and MVP who averaged 19.4 points per game
The promise of long-term success in their #8 draft pick, Aussie Shyla Heal, who’d been playing pro ball since she was 14, and #16 Natasha Mack, the BCOA Defensive Player of the year, heralded for her talent and perseverance
Center Stefanie Dolson arrived in camp nearly 30 pounds lighter.
A talented and deep roster, including Courtney Vandersloot, Kahleah Copper, Ruthy Hebard, Diamond DeShields, and Allie Quigley
The season started with two promising wins, the second against the Atlanta Dream with a Parker-less roster. Natasha Mack was waived, re-signed, and waived again.
Then, the best-laid plans seem to turn to dust.
The team knew it would be without Dolson as she competed in the Olympic-qualifying 3-on-3 tournament, but disaster seemed to strike when Parker injured her ankle after the first game of the season. The team lost their leader. Then, veteran Allie Quigley injured her hamstring and had to sit out. The team lost their most consistent outside shooter.
Since then, there have been no answers in seven straight losses…five at home and two on the road.
It’s not that they’ve played so badly, or been blown out. More often, it’s that they’ve missed the little things, such as turning the ball over, not protecting their lead, or defensive breakdowns.
Last week was tumultuous.
On June 2, the Sky traded Shyla Heal to the Dallas Wings for guard Dana Evans and draft considerations. Heal was then waived by the Wings and is now preparing for the Australian basketball season.
Why trade the future?
“It’s tough, but due to visa issues and injuries, Shyla wasn’t getting the chance to prove herself here, and it was unfair.” Wade said. “This team isn’t the same team we initially expected Shyla to play with, so we had to adjust. Trading her salary allows for us to bring in more veterans”
The Sky’s home and home against Phoenix on June 1 and 3 tells the story of the season.
In game 1 at Wintrust Arena, despite the Sky scoring 31 points on turnovers, the Mercury responded by outscoring the Sky 34-23 in the fourth quarter, sending it to overtime.
In a heartbreaker felt throughout the fans at Wintrust Arena, the Sky’s 83-84 loss came on a half-court buzzer beater from guard Kia Nurse.
“I never make that shot!” she giggled in a postgame interview.
On June 3 in Phoenix, with Dolson and Quigley back, in the final 2:54 of the third quarter, the Sky went on an 8-2 run for an eight-point lead, only to lose the lead as the Mercury went on a 5-0 run at the end of the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. During overtime, after falling behind by two, the Sky, led by Kahleah Copper with 14, responded with a 7-0 run over 1:31 for a 72-67 lead. But then, the Mercury, led by Skylar Diggins-Smith, went a 10-2 run over the final three minutes, to win the game 77-74.
And yet, the news wasn’t all bad. Guard Courtney Vandersloot surpassed Mercury legend Diana Taurasi to claim the No. 4 spot on the WNBA All-Time Assists, with 1,970.
Forward Azurá Stevens, playing limited minutes, had a season-high ten rebounds, finishing the game with eight points and ten rebounds.
In her first game back, Dolson scored 12 points, including six of the Sky’s nine points scored in overtime.
Dolson remained positive about the Sky’s situation.
*l’m going to bring the things I know I’m good at: screening, finding people when they’re open, scoring when I have to and playing good defense,” she said.
She continued. “If you continue to get down on yourself, you’re going to go on a downward spiral. I was pleasantly surprised around this team to see how positive they are going forward and doing everything we can to get a win.”
Not everyone shared Dolson’s sunny outlook.
When asked about the positives they could draw after their 68-63 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday, despite forward Ruthy Hebard’s third double-double of the season (fourth career) with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Kahleah Copper was honest.
“l can’t find anything to be positive about,” she said “For me, winning is positive.”
As he awaits the results of a WNBA investigation into Wade alleging a referee’s racial slur in May, Wade continues to make positive statements regarding the Sky’s eventual turnaround.
We have some stuff we have to correct,’’ said Wade. ‘We have to play better basketball at the beginning of the game and have a sense of urgency. It’s not that we lost seven in a row, but we lost [the last] four in the same way. We just have to keep pushing through, and we will. We will. We’ll be OK.’’
The Sky (2-7) returns to Chicago to host the Indiana Fever (1-9) on Wednesday, June 9 at 7:00p CT. Wade is hopeful that Parker will return to the lineup that night.
And maybe, a return to the “W’ column as well.