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Sky Notebook: Takeaways from the first two weeks of the 2024 season

4 weeks agoKarli Bell

The Chicago Sky are proving doubters wrong with a strong 2-2 start. All games have been decided by single digits, including knocking off the formerly undefeated New York Liberty on the road on May 23, 90-81.

The Sky are still without Isabelle Harrison as she works back from her knee injury from last season. They are also without top draft pick Kamilla Cardoso after suffering a shoulder injury during the preseason, but she’s poised to return by June 1. 

Diamond DeShields has been on a minutes restriction as she returns from a foot injury but did see the floor again in the 86-82 home opener loss to the Connecticut Sun on May 25.

Even with all these injuries, the Sky are still finding their rhythm offensively while their defensive identity is starting to shine through early.

Defense, defense, defense

New Chicago Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon has preached a defensive identity since her introductory press conference. That grit and tenacity was on full display in the upset win over New York, holding the Liberty to a season-low 32 points in the first half and created 19 points off their 13 turnovers.

“I feel like [our defense] speaks about the players we have on our team,” Marina Mabrey said after the Liberty game. “Not everybody wants to go out there every night and defend. It’s not easy and it’s not fun. So having those personalities that are willing to dig deep and find that strength to keep trying to guard, especially these amazing players in New York. It takes a lot of mental strength so it goes with our focus.”

The Sky rank in the Top 3 in the WNBA in multiple defensive categories, including 2nd in steals (10.5 per game), 2nd in limiting their opponents scoring advantage off of turnovers (13.8 ppg) and 3rd opponents turnover percentage (22.8%).

Resiliency and fight until the very end

After dropping the season opener to Dallas 87-79 in the final minutes of the contest, the Sky came back with a new boost and energy in the rematch just a few days later in Dallas. Chicago outscored the Wings 27-9 in the final 13 minutes of the game to pick up their first win of the season, 83-74.

“It was a desire to win,” Weatherspoon said after the Dallas win. “We’re hungry to get it done. We bettered ourselves in the second half of things that we wanted to accomplish, and how we wanted to play, how we wanted to defend. How we must rebound. That second half was huge for us, and we’re still down going into the fourth but we felt like we had a little momentum, and it shifted in our favor.”

That tenacity and fight even showed in losses. In the home opener, the biggest lead of the game was only 10 against the undefeated Connecticut Sun with consistent lead changes from the second quarter on. It ended up coming down to attacking the glass and creating second chance opportunities with Chicago being outrebounded, 38-21.

“When that ball goes up, you got to put a body on somebody, flesh to flesh,” Weatherspoon said after the loss. “We’re a team that has to gang-rebound. We’re not all healthy yet. We’re not as healthy as we can be, but we will have Isabelle Harrison coming back. We will have Kamilla coming back. That helps a lot for us on the glass.”

Prior to the home opener, the Sky were ranked No. 1 in the WNBA in offensive rebounding.

Chemistry is coming together

Projected to finish 12th at the start of training camp, the Sky have used that as fuel and motivation to push their chemistry even further with a majority of the leadership on the floor coming from Marina Mabrey.

Mabrey is leading the team with her 19.3 ppg through the first four games but also helping that chemistry grow with her team-high 5.5 assist average, a lot of which are coming from the transitional style of basketball the Sky want to play. 

“She’s always consistent,” Angel Reese said after the home opener. “She comes out and makes shots early on for us, and then late game. She always does that. She makes a lot of clutch shots, and I’m like ‘oh ok period.’ We do whatever it takes to get Marina open because we know she’s a great shooter.”

Reese is settling into the Sky’s identity with ease, leading all WNBA rookies with her 7.8 rebound average and ranked No. 2 with her 12.3 ppg average. Reese credits all of her early success and ability to her teammates taking her under their wings.

“My vets have put a lot of confidence in me,” Reese said after the Dallas win. “My coaching staff has put a lot of confidence in me. They really don’t treat me like a rookie and they always just are there for me. They help me with plays, defensive assignments, and just being there as much as I can.”

Once the Sky get fully healthy with the return of Harrison, Cardoso and DeShields getting off a minutes restriction, the depth of this roster will showcase the identity that Weatherspoon wants this Sky team to have.

Stats and Notes

  • Brianna Turner reached 300 career offensive rebounds vs. Dallas (5/15)
  • Angel Reese’s 5 offensive rebounds in the season opener are the most for a first career game in franchise history
  • Elizabeth Williams moved up to 21st on the WNBA’s all-time offensive rebounds list with 663 vs. Dallas (5/18)

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