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Chicago Sky 2022 season primer

7 months agoKarli Bell

The 26th WNBA season is in full swing and so is the Chicago Sky’s title defending season. 2021 was the first WNBA championship title and second title game appearance for the franchise. However the run to the title was anything but easy as the team finished the regular season with a .500 record (16-16).

2021 was filled with injuries at the beginning of the season, the biggest being hometown hero Candace Parker who was sidelined with an ankle injury. Her presence was instrumental for the Sky, seeing that the team went 1-9 without Parker on the floor in the regular season.

With Parker out, Kahleah Copper stepped up at the guard position, eventually becoming the regular season lead scorer with 14.4 points a game. Courtney Vandersloot was the catalyst for a majority of scoring by either taking it herself or finding the open shooter, leading the team with an average of 8.6 assists per game in the regular season. Diamond DeShields did a bit of everything offensively with a season average of 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

When Parker came back in June, the Sky found their winning ways with a 7-game winning streak. As the regular season came to a close in September, they dropped 4 of their last 6, earning them a 6 seed in the WNBA playoffs where they played a single elimination game in the first round against Dallas.

Their October playoff run was unexpected to say the least. In the first two rounds of single elimination, the Sky cruised past Dallas and Minnesota. Heading into the semi-finals, they faced a very tough Connecticut Sun team in a best-of-five series. Allie Quigley and Copper led the way in the semifinals offensively while Parker dominated the boards. The Sky advanced to the Finals with the 3-1 series win.

The Finals was a battle of legends in Diana Taurasi’s Phoenix Mercury taking on Parker’s Chicago Sky. Early hot shooting gave the Sky the Game 1 win where Game 2 went to Phoenix in overtime on a last-second layup. Chicago dominated in Game 3, leading by 22 points at halftime. The Mercury put up a hard fight in Game 4, but Parker came back home to bring Chicago a championship with the 80-74 win. Copper was named Finals MVP.

Some new faces to the roster

The defending WNBA champions will have a majority of their core returning in Parker, Quigley, Vandersloot and Copper. DeShields and Stefanie Dolson departed in free agency. 

The Sky picked up Julie Allemand and 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman in free agency. With the Meesseman addition, this now puts three Finals MVP on the Sky roster with Parker (2016), Meesseman (2019) and Copper (2021).

Allemand last played in the WNBA in 2020 for the Indiana Fever before heading back overseas to play in Belgium. In her one WNBA season, she became the first rookie in WNBA history to average 8 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.

Meesseman came from the Washington Mystics in free agency. She last played in 2020 as well before joining Allemand in Belgium. Over her career, she averages 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. She provides extra size inside and can step into guard play when needed.

Overall, the Sky are quite a young team with the only long-term veterans being Parker, Quigley and Vandersloot. They have a total of five rookies: Rebekah Gardner, Tina Krajisnik, Anneli Maley, Sparkle Taylor and Li Yueru. 

The one rookie that will get plenty of minutes is Gardner out of UCLA. While she’s new to the WNBA, she spent the offseason in Spain, averaging 14.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 23 games.

Dana Evans will be entering her second season with the Sky. While her rookie season was quiet, her improvement shined instantly in the 2022 season opener when she put up a career-high 24 points. 

“We’ve actually wanted her to be more of a creator as well as a shot maker, and she’s done that,” head coach James Wade said at the Chicago Sky’s media day. “ It’s probably one of the best moves I’ve made as far as drafts.”

WNBA Overview

Looking at the 2022 regular season, the schedule has now expanded to 36 regular season games, two more than the previous 34-game schedule that was originally set in 2003. In the COVID-shortened season of 2020, the regular season schedule was 22 games. Last year, the schedule bumped up to 32 games before another jump for this season.

The playoff format will also look different in 2022, resembling more of a traditional bracket. The top eight teams overall will make the playoffs. The postseason will consist of three rounds. The first round will be a best-of-three and then will transform into a best-of-five series for the semi-finals and the WNBA Finals. 

The higher seed will host the first two games for the first round. The semi-finals and Finals series will stay unchanged with the higher seeds hosting the first two games and a fifth game if needed.

The conferences will stay the same for the time being with the WNBA looking to expand in the next few years. The Chicago Sky are in the Eastern Conference along with the Washington Mystics, Atlanta Dream, New York Liberty, Indiana Fever and Connecticut Sun. The Western Conference has the Las Vegas Aces, Los Angeles Sparks, Seattle Storm, Dallas Wings, Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx.

While the WNBA is looking to add more teams, players are asking for an expanded roster. Currently, WNBA teams need to have a minimum of 11 players but cannot surpass 12 players, as outlined by the league’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The WNBA Commissioner’s Cup is also returning for 2022. It was first put in place in 2021 as an in-season tournament. Each team will play 10 designated “Cup Games” per season. These games will be the first road and home game against each team’s five conference rivals. 

After the 10 games are played, the top teams in the Eastern and Western conferences will play a championship game with a prize pool of $500,000. The winning team will get $30,000 per player, the MVP will get an extra $5,000 and the losing team will get $10,000 per player.

If you can’t make it to Wintrust Arena to see the Chicago Sky play in person, you can stream all non-nationally televised games on Marquee Plus and tune in to Marquee Sports Network for select games. You can find the full broadcast schedule here.

To see the Sky’s full regular season schedule, you can find that here.

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