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Schedule release part of long offseason for Sky

Sky coach Pokey Chatman gets that the release of the 2015 WNBA schedule will remind people just how long the offseason lasts. By the time the Sky open their season June 5 at home against the Indiana Fever, it will have been 266 days since they were swept out of the 2014 Finals by the Phoenix Mercury.

But Chatman also sees the landmarks between now and opening night during an offseason made longer by 2014’s compressed schedule to accommodate the Women’s World Championship. There’s the mid-January start of free agency, April 16 when they’ll have the fifth pick in the draft and then the start of training camp, all of which make the offseason after the franchise’s most successful season feel a bit shorter.

Chatman also doubts that will halt the momentum of the franchise as it enters its 10th season. She said the long offseason is part of the league’s makeup, and that teams have figured out ways to stay involved with fans during the lengthy break between seasons.

“We’ve figured out a nice method to help with that,” Chatman said.

When the Sky do start their season it will be with a different status than years past. They’ll be the reigning Eastern Conference champion with expectations of at least matching that playoff run. They’ll also be one of the league’s more marketed teams, with four of their games on national television, including both with Phoenix.

And the schedule doesn’t allow them to ease into their season. Following the June 5 opener with Indiana, the Sky go on the road for five straight. Then after hosting the Atlanta Dream, the Sky are on the road for two more.

Chatman said she likes the tough start to the season, though “if you ask me that again at the end of the month I may not like it as much.”

“We have to be ready. We’re a team that’s going to have a target on our back. We’re Eastern Conference champs and made it to the Finals,” Chatman said. “No one’s going to feel sorry for us. We have to be ready to go when the ball is tossed up.”

The Sky’s biggest batch of home games comes during the middle of the season. Six of their nine July games are in Rosemont, and they have a five-game homestand that runs from July 31-Aug. 9 before they end with seven of their final 11 on the road.