It has been a challenging season for the Chicago Sky so far, as they have been adjusting to changing line ups within a revamped roster.
After last night’s 91-99 loss to the Phoenix Mercury, the Sky are 1-6 for eleventh in the WNBA standings. But out of that defeat, there were signs of revival for a team that has made the playoffs for the last several years.
A downturn was to be expected after All-Star forward Elena Delle Donne forced a trade to the Washington Mystics over the winter. But Chicago’s offensive production has dipped this season, as has efficiency.
The Sky is shooting 40 percent from the field this year, down from 46 last season. They are also averaging close to four more turnovers per game.
In preseason, veteran point guard Cappie Pondexter did hint that there was a totally different style of play coming with first-year coach Amber Stocks. But adjustment to that system appears to have come at a cost, as the team has been struggling mightily in the second half of all but one game so far.
Chicago posted an eight-point third quarter in one of their match ups against the Mystics, and had only 17 points in the fourth quarter of their recent game against the Sun, highlighting what has been a year of rough second halves. Though the loss to Phoenix was their most complete game yet, the Sky went scoreless in the game’s final minutes.
Coming into the season, post play was considered to be a strength for Chicago, due to an abundance of personnel. But the bigs have not been able to get going offensively, and opposing teams are out-rebounding them at a 41-37 per-game pace.
Line up changes have also interfered with chemistry-building, as veteran guards Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley didn’t return from overseas commitments until mid-May. Draft picks Tori Jankoska and Shayla Cooper were both waived to make room for Vandersloot and Quigley.
Post Alaina Coates, whom the Sky drafted at No. 2, is still rehabilitating from a foot injury and has yet to suit up or practice with the team. The lone draftee on the team’s active roster is Makayla Epps, who has played sparingly, leaving a veteran-heavy roster. The option for Chicago to give their young players minutes and use this as a season to gain experience is virtually nonexistent, because there are so many veterans on the roster.
Stocks, who is also the team’s general manager, doesn’t have a prediction for when the the group will start to build chemistry and turn things around.
“That’s a crystal ball that we would all want to know, not just with our team, but with every team in the sport,” she said. “Every team goes through different phases throughout the season, and the game of basketball is a game where you have to expect unexpected and its also a game of adjustments. Even as we work together and gel, there will be constant adjustments throughout the course of the season.”
Stocks said her team is resilient and mature.
“All 12 ladies are extremely competitive, and when you are playing any professional sport, the competitiveness is all channeled into focus and drive,” Stocks said. “Frustration is probably something that a lot of them have left years ago. When you get into this type of predicament, you channel that energy into focus, drive and application on doing the things and making the adjustments that need to be made.”
A positive is the improved play that the team exhibited against the Mercury. Center Stefanie Dolson went 6-6 from the three-point line, while second-year post Imani Boyette had a season-high 14 points. And for the first time all season, the Sky had a consistent three-point shot all across the board, going 11-24.
Moral victories don’t mean much in professional sports, but last night’s performance offers a glimmer of hope, as it showed that the team is starting to come together.
“We look at the positives and we look at the things we improved upon and we continue to press forward and stay focused on everyday,” Stocks said.