CHICAGO — As a team, they made clear that they weren’t rebuilding but rather retooling for a new era of their franchise.
While just a small sample size, the Chicago Sky were certainly able to show that in their opening weekend to continue the success they’ve had over the past few years.
With a roster that features just three active players from last season’s team, the new-look team pulled off two victories on the road. They started with a 77-66 win over the Lynx in Minneapolis on Friday before a nationally-televised 75-69 victory over the Mercury in Phoenix on Sunday.
That contest received plenty of attention since it was the first home game for Brittney Griner, who was wrongfully detained in Russia for nearly ten months. She would score 27 points and grab ten rebounds, but the Sky had enough to counter that to pick up a momentous win to get their season going.
Griner’s return to the league has been emotional for everyone in the league, including the Sky, who like many advocated for her return during the entire 2022 season.
“We knew this was an important match, especially for the City of Phoenix and the WNBA, and you we’re always appreciative of BG being here and being at home and being able to do something that she loves in a place that’s free as the WNBA,” said Wade on Sunday. “But at the end of the day, we konw that the main thing has to be the main thing for us. It’s about coming together and not taking this moment to play together at our highest level – we don’t want to those moments for granted because you don’t get them back.
“Everytime we step on the floor, out of sign of respect for ‘BG,’ out of sign of respect for the WNBA and everybody else and for each other, we’re gonna come out and just play our butts off and show what we can do.”
As one might expect, Kahleah Copper has led the way for the team early, with the two-time WNBA All-Star and 2021 WNBA Finals MVP being the best returner from the core of the 2022 team.
She’s averaged 17.5 points, six rebounds, and three assists in the first two contests, including 15 points and five boards in the win over the Mercury. Another returner, Gary native Dana Evans, filled in for injured starter Marina Mabrey on Sunday, scoring 13 points and hitting a critical shot in the final minute to help the Sky pull away for the win.
Elizabeth Williams, one of the newcomers to the team this season, has asserted herself in the first two games, averaging 12 points and seven rebounds during the opening two games. Alanna Smith scored 15 points off the bench in the win over the Lynx.
The Sky will open up their home schedule this weekend, hosting the Mystics at Wintrust Arena at 7 p.m. then then against the Wings on Sunday at 5 p.m.