By J. Coyden Palmer
The Chicago Sky are headed back to the playoffs for the second year in a row. Head Coach James Wade has the Sky on top of the Eastern Conference with an 11-9 record with two games to play at Crusader press time. The Sky have the fifth best record overall and these two games are important because of seedings.
“We are just trying to win every single game we play and not get too far ahead of ourselves,” said Wade, who is in his second year as general manager and head coach. “All of these games are important. You can learn something about your team and your opponent in each game you play.”
The Sky had been rolling along but got some bad news last week. All-Star guard Diamond DeShields had to leave the team for personal reasons and her return is doubtful. Forward Azura Stevens has been lost for the season due to a knee injury. Stevens was having the best season of her career, averaging 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Sky. The 6-foot-6 UConn grad came to the Sky from Dallas in a trade in February for Katie Lou Samuelson. Stevens was drafted with the sixth pick by the Wings in 2018.
“It hurts not having those two, but there is nothing we can do about it,” said forward Cheyenne Parker. “I think our morale is still pretty good. This is still fun for us. We’ve all been together a lot for the past year, so we are taking things in stride.”
The Sky had lost five in a row going into a game Wednesday night against the last place Atlanta Dream. When the season first began, Coach Wade told Lance Irvin on the What’s Up Cuz podcast, keeping his team healthy would be the biggest challenge of the season.
“When you’re dealing with a short season and so many games compacted into a short period of time, you have to maintain your health,” Wade said. “We are going to do everything we can to keep our players healthy, but injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. And you just have to deal with them.”
The Sky, like the rest of the WNBA, has been using this system to place an emphasis on social justice. The “Sky Takes Action” initiative, in partnership with former Bears linebacker and Athletes for Justice founder Sam Acho, Sky players will rally to donate funds to Chicago-based community organizations based on game performance: $10 for every point scored, $100 for every win, and $50 for every loss. Pregame warmup outfits designed to promote the initiative will raise awareness, as will custom auction items sold-off by members of the team. Top donors will be spotlighted on Sky social media accounts, and receive a personal phone call from members of the team.
“I think it’s great to have ‘Black Lives Matter’ written on the court, Breonna Taylor’s name, and all these things need to be shown,” said forward Gabby Williams. “But they need to go beyond just awareness. It needs to go beyond performatives. And us as a team, we all wanted to do something that felt personal and felt like we were taking action.”