August 25, 2022 

Chicago Sky notebook: On to Connecticut

Wade gets extension while Gardner gets All-Rookie nod

In the postseason, every true contender eventually comes face to face with a make-it-or-break-it moment. The Chicago Sky had theirs in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs versus the New York Liberty.

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Chicago’s 13-point lead with 40 seconds left in the third quarter started dissipating when Sabrina Ionescu had a chance to convert a three-point play. She missed the free throw but saw no one had cleanly grabbed the loose ball. So Ionescu ran over to the wing, corralled the ball before turning around and rattling home a three. The Barclays crowd erupted and James Wade decided to call a timeout.

Chicago had been in a situation like this before the previous season and the team found themselves entrenched in it once again.

“We just looked at each other and had that look like, “We got this” and just kept giving each other confidence,” Allie Quigley said about what was said in the huddle during the timeout. “We all looked at each other and knew this was a moment where we had to get better and stop their momentum.”

The Sky didn’t look back after the timeout and went on a 20-3 run before garbage time ensued. Chicago had its backs against the wall after losing Game 1 but outscored the Liberty 190-134 in the final games of the series. Their defense had waned in August, but in Games 2 and 3 versus the Liberty, the Sky reached a new level where everything just clicked.

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“We all knew what we had to do,” Wade said after the game. “They were all on a mission and you could tell it was a collective mission. I think we decided this was ‘go time’ and we wanted to show what we’re really made of. We responded in Game 2 and we built off it after that.”

Chicago will play Connecticut in what will be a rematch of last year’s semifinals. The Sky swept the Sun in three regular-season meetings and find themselves playing their best basketball heading into the series. When they had to respond with everything on the line, Chicago remained composed and showed why they are dangerous in any situation.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Sky, James Wade come to an agreement on a contract extension

Between plane rides and playoff performances, the Sky and Wade agreed to a contract extension that extends him through the 2025 season. The organization and the 2022 Executive of the Year had agreed to a contract extension through 2025 before the 2021 season, but the team told The Next the contract is a renegotiated, refurbished contract that replaced the one he signed in 2021.

“I’m very excited and pleased that the organization has entrusted me to lead this franchise and it’s very humbling to know that I get to coach this group of players and work in this great organization for an extended period of time,” Wade said in a statement. “I’m very honored and I feel very blessed.”

Wade has transformed the organization in his short time with the team. Upon his arrival in late 2018, the former Minnesota Lynx assistant unexpectedly led the Sky to the second round of the playoffs in 2019. Chicago battled with injuries after a league-best 5-2 start in the 2020 WNBA bubble but built a culture attractive enough to pry Candace Parker out of Los Angeles. After delivering a title in 2021 and on the verge of getting a crack at another one, Chicago rewarded Wade with a new deal.

Rebekah Gardner named to All-Rookie team

It was announced today that Gardner was among the five players selected to the WNBA’s All-Rookie team this year. The 32-year-old’s story has been well chronicled throughout the season and this latest achievement added another chapter to her story. She joined the media on a video call this afternoon and used the moment to reflect on what this means for players in her position moving forward.

“Even more than it means to me, I feel like it’s encouraging to other players who may be in my position just to know that when they get an opportunity to take advantage of it,” Gardner said. “You never know how fast things can change. I just want to keep inspiring those people to keep chasing their dreams because you just have to stay ready for your opportunity.”

Gardner’s accolades might not end with an All-Rookie team selection. She has a chance to make an All-Defensive team this season after pestering backcourts all season. Wade went to her down the stretch of games to provide energy off the bench and slowly garnered national attention for her work on the defensive end.

Written by James Kay

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