Sky feel rejuvenated after All-Star break with all eyes on playoff push
The Chicago Sky opened the WNBA season surprising everyone, starting off in the top 5 in WNBA rankings and playing with a chip on their shoulder entering into the 2023 season.
As the season progressed, anything and everything that could go wrong for a team went wrong for the Sky. From a litany of injuries — where at one point they were playing with just 7 available players — to then losing their head coach and general manager James Wade to an NBA position.
That’s just what happened off the floor.
On the court, the Sky couldn’t find much consistency with a 6-game skid throughout most of June and then ending the first half of the season on a 3-game losing streak.
“Going into the break, I just want everybody to take the [All-Star] break and really reset, but I just let them know that when we get back, we’re not playing any games. We’re really going to get after it. It’s go time,” Kahleah Copper said after the July 12 loss to the Connecticut Sun.
The team took that to heart while Copper was participating in her third straight All-Star game in Las Vegas. While the veteran was getting rest on Monday, the rest of the Sky team hit the gym with a brand new feel on the hardwood.
“I was so proud of them on how the mentality was after 4 days off, and they came here on point,” head coach Emre Vatansever said at practice. “Whatever we gave them, they applied it well. There were different vibes on the court and I felt it and I told them, ‘This is great.’ I felt the energy and enthusiasm, because that’s going to reflect when you shoot the ball, when you pass it to your teammate because they’re having fun.”
“I was really, really proud of the girls the way everybody came in and was just focused and ready to go. Sometimes you haven’t played for a little bit and you’re a bit sloppy but we were sharp today,” Alanna Smith said at Monday’s practice.
Coming out of a 4-day break with a new edge is not necessarily something that will translate over to a stat sheet, but it’s the intangibles, like communication, focus, drive and grit, that players wanted to find again.
“I think, over time, you just get tired of hearing the same thing. The break was really needed for us to just miss each other and miss the game,” Dana Evans said at Monday’s practice. “It’s always good to smile when you’re coming into practice. You don’t want to be dragging. Today, I was just so excited to get back on the court. Communication will take care of everything else.”
Whether or not that will translate to game action remains to be seen as the Sky hit the West Coast for a couple games against the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday and Seattle Storm on Saturday.