April 19, 2022
Chicago Sky training camp diary: Day 3
Azurá Stevens: "I am feeling really, really good now"
DEERFIELD, Ill. — After every practice, the Chicago Sky huddle around head coach and general manager James Wade. He typically reflects on what went down in practice and discusses what the team could improve on in the following session. After practice adjourned, the team realized there was one more thing left to check off of the day’s training camp itinerary: wishing Candace Parker a happy birthday.
The group of 14 players and coaching staff reconvened at center court to wish the future Hall of Famer a happy birthday over video. Parker, who turned 36 years old today, is currently away from the team but is expected at camp sometime next week.
Outside of the last-minute birthday wishes, today was another competitive training camp session in Deerfield. The pace picked up when the team scrimmaged, where Wade let the groups play more physically compared to the first two practices. Here are some other takeaways from the third day of Chicago’s training camp.
Allie Quigley is ready to help the Sky repeat after a rocky 2021 season
After she helped the Sky win their first WNBA championship, there was very few accolades left for Allie Quigley to add to her hall of fame resume. The three-time all-star and two-time sixth woman of the year had mulled retirement in the offseason but eventually found herself wanting to compete for another shot at bringing a title home to Chicago.
While the Sky head into 2022 as the reigning champs, last season was difficult for Chicago. Injuries, overseas commitments, and inconsistency in the second half of the season made it hard to enjoy, which most of last year’s team echoed.
“I think a lot of it went into wanting to have a better year than last year in the regular season,” said Quigley. “Us being defending champs and the people here from ownership to the coaches to my teammates. This feels like home. [Her and her wife Courtney Vandersloot] have built a life here. That was the main thing.”
Both Quigley and Vandersloot had an eventful offseason. Speculation about where they would decide their basketball futures would go ran rampant through WNBA circles. Eventually, the two decided to return to the franchise they had built up since teaming up in 2013.
Vandersloot and Quigley have been vocal in their first days at camp with all of that noise in the past. Today, Quigley pulled aside Imani McGee-Stafford between drills to discuss positioning on screens and has doled out advice with guards on the roster. She usually doesn’t get a chance to be in attendance for most of the training camp due to her commitments to UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia at this point in April.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been here this early,” said Quigley. “A lot of these players haven’t ran these plays before, just being younger and inexperienced. I’m just trying to help them out and give them some tips to do better.”
Last season, Quigley became just the third NBA and WNBA player to win (three) three-point contests. After beating Jonquel Jones in the final round, Quigley told the Las Vegas crowd that it would be her final three-point contest. However, the league is planning to host the all-star game in Chicago. Could that sway Quigley to change her mind about her three-point contest embargo?
“I’m still going to say ‘no,’ but you can never say never,” said Quigley.
Azurá Stevens feeling like herself again
Azurá Stevens has been all smiles at the Sky’s training camp so far. She controlled the aux today, where she blared a “clean rap, hip-hop” playlist from the speakers located by the right corner of the court. Stevens mentioned she went to see her favorite artist, Tame Impala, in the offseason and said she is trying to get lead man Kevin Parker to come to a game this season.
“I need Chicago media to make this happen,” said Stevens. “I love Kevin Parker. He’s a genius.”
Stevens was off to the side stretching and doing work with a trainer for the portion of practice available to the media. Hindered by a minutes restriction for the first half of last season, Stevens feels like she is back to where she wants to be both physically and mentally. Even after averaging 33 minutes per game while in Russia this offseason, she admitted she needed to work on her mental health to have a certain amount of comfort every athlete needs to perform at the highest level.
“A lot of people last year were talking about how it was good to see me healthy, but I still didn’t feel mentally I was where I wanted to be,” said Stevens. “That’s really hard when everybody is telling you how good you look, but you still don’t feel it. Every athlete would say you have to feel it yourself mentally and I can definitely say I’m feeling really, really good now.”
In the offseason, James Wade told The Next there is no plan for Stevens to be on a minutes restriction in 2022. Stevens iterated that the plan is for her not to be on one again when the season opens up on May 6.
Chicago has long been known for having a stellar training staff, which Stevens has valued since being traded from Dallas. In addition, she has had to overcome injuries from the onset of her WNBA career and has even picked up some tips from Candace Parker about maintaining her physical health.
“From the minute I came in, the staff was really attentive to my personal needs,” said Stevens. “I really appreciated that coming off of an injury and surgery. It was hard coming from a place where I felt like my needs weren’t met there. Coming here, I was already hyper-sensitive to all medical stuff in general. They have done a great job here making me feel comfortable.”
Chicago will have its first day off of training camp tomorrow but picks back up on Thursday.