NEW YORK (AP) — The Chicago Sky have undergone more change the past two seasons than any team in the WNBA.
And the Sky were coming off their 2021 championship when the turnover began. Kahleah Copper is now the lone remaining starter from that team as Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Azura Stevens and Allie Quigley are no longer with Chicago.
Copper has embraced the challenge of her leadership role, getting off to a strong start this year in helping the Sky win four of their first seven games. She’s averaging a career-best 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds. Copper helped the team pull off a stunning 19-point comeback against the New York Liberty on Sunday, scoring 17 of her 27 points in the third quarter to fuel the rally.
She’s gotten some help with the offseason additions this year of Courtney Williams, Marina Mabrey and Elizabeth Williams.
‘‘When the moment comes, I’m ready and I’m built for it,’’ Copper said. ‘‘But I have teammates around me, so I don’t have to do it by myself.’’
While it would be easy from outside the Sky’s locker room to look at a win like Sunday’s as one they could rally around, coach James Wade would disagree. The coach said his players already had belief in themselves.
‘‘We’ve been confident like this the entire season,’’ Wade said, adding that a victory like that “doesn’t add anything. It just reinforces sentiments, but it doesn’t add confidence for us.’’
As the team builds chemistry, Copper stressed playing good defense is key for the Sky.
“Hang our hats on defense, that’s something we can control,” she said. “You can’t control the shots going in, you can control our effort. Control the way we disrupt and defend.”
Wade hasn’t changed his coaching philosophy since taking over the Sky in 2019, emphasizing team over individual and focusing on defense.
“This is really a team sport. Individuals don’t make teams,” Wade said. “They can make them better if they are willing to sacrifice for each other.”
The Sky were fourth in this week’s AP WNBA power poll. Las Vegas was the top choice for the fourth straight week. Connecticut and New York followed them. Washington and Los Angeles were fifth and sixth. Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix were next. Indiana, Minnesota and Seattle rounded out the list.
Griner heads to Texas for two games against Dallas. The games will serve as a homecoming for the Phoenix, who hails from the Houston area. Baylor coach Nicki Collen, who was very vocal during Griner’s detainment in Russia, said she’ll be at the game Wednesday with her team. Collen took over the Bears program in 2021.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Alyssa Thomas averaged nearly a triple-double this past week with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 9.7 assists to help the Connecticut Sun go 3-0. Other players that received votes included Nneka Ogwumike of Los Angeles, Breanna Stewart of New York and A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Las Vegas at Connecticut, Tuesday and Thursday. A rematch of the WNBA Finals from last season, the Aces and Sun are the top two teams in the standings so far this season. Las Vegas is unbeaten and Connecticut has just one loss.
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