What can you say about this season for the Chicago Sky? They were besieged by uncertainty in every which way imaginable, and yet found a way to maintain a fair standing in the league.
Here’s a look back at what happened and a look ahead to what’s ahead:
A look back at 2023
Chicago came into the 2023 season with an almost entirely new roster that looked radically different from the team that won the title in 2021 and made it to the semifinals in 2022. The only remaining player from both those squads was 2021 Finals MVP, three-time All-Star and team captain Kahleah Copper. The additions of Courtney Williams, Elizabeth Williams, Marina Mabrey and Alanna Smith brought in a unique mixture of experience at the professional level, both in the WNBA and overseas.
The Sky started off decently, hovering around .500. Then, beginning on June 6, they endured a six-game losing streak and had some of their best talent—Rebekah Gardner and Isabelle Harrison—suffer injuries that left them out for the remainder of the season. It was at that moment that the Sky were in a state of disarray. The shaky status of the team then was exacerbated by the abrupt departure of head coach James Wade on July 1. In an official press release, he indicated that he had accepted a job to be an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors; Emre Vantasaver was named the interim head coach.
Going into the All Star break, the clouds in the Sky were dark.
Afterwards, the clouds began to part. It was announced that NBA Hall of Famer and Chicago native Dwyane Wade had become a part owner of the team. The team then had a stretch where they won three-consecutive games from July 30 to August 6. Vantasaver had created space for previously underutilized players, such as Dana Evans, Robyn Parks and Sika Koné, to contribute when asked to do so.
But shortly thereafter, the Sky lost four-straight games and their chance of making it to the playoffs was hanging by a thread. They were locked in a battle with the Los Angeles Sparks for the eighth and final spot. A huge win on the road in LA on August 29 helped increase their postseason prospects.
They earned their fifth-consecutive postseason berth with a home victory over the Minnesota Lynx on September 8. But, the Sky would be swept in the first round by the heavily-favored defending champion Las Vegas Aces. Even in defeat, Chicago could be proud of themselves after overcoming such odds
A look ahead to 2024
The addition of Dwyane Wade to the ownership group will be huge in terms of name recognition. His desire to be involved in player development should motivate future prospects and free agents to consider playing in Chicago. In other good news, Copper signed a two-year contract prior to the start of the playoffs. This season, she led by example as she intended to do, averaging 18.7 points, grabbing 4.4 rebounds and dishing out two assists per game as she made another All-Star appearance. Her presence could have the potential to encourage other players to stay in or come to Chicago.
Although Vantansaver will not be retained as head coach, he must be given his just due for coming in at such a chaotic time and bringing some stability to the team. The search is on for a new head coach, with Hall of Famer Teresa Weatherspoon currently the leading candidate. With her pedigree as a player and her background in player development with the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, she would be more than ideal to help continue to build the team in every facet.
The names of D. Wade, Copper and, potentially, Weatherspoon would breathe new life into the Sky because each of them bring a winning mindset and track record.