Pondexter lends voice, veteran leadership to Sky

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Cappie Pondexter has become the vocal leader for the Sky in her second year with the franchise. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Elena Delle Donne may be the face of the Sky. But when it comes to the franchise’s voice, that is all Cappie Pondexter.

The 10-year veteran has no trouble being the Sky’s resident vocal leader, but after a disappointing loss in last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Pondexter is done mincing words.

“I blame me for us not advancing,” said Pondexter, who is in her second year with the Sky after being acquired in a trade with the New York Liberty. “I was a little laid back and reserved because it was my first year (with the Sky). But I told the girls, ‘at the end of the day, I love you, but I have to be harder.”

Pondexter, who scored 18 points in a 97-80 loss to the Minnesota Lynx on Wedesday, carries the credentials to garner that level of respect. The point guard won championships with the Phoenix Mercury in 2007 and 2009 and a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team at the 2008 Beijing summer games.

At 33, the five-time All-Star believes the Sky have the pieces to make a run at a league championship this season. But Pondexter said her rise in intensity will be part of “next-level stuff” that will require her teammates to adjust.

“If something isn’t going right in practice, she’s not afraid to stop practice and address it immediately,” Delle Donne said. “It’s incredible to have that kind of voice. She’s intense and that’s how it has to be in situations like that.

“It can’t always be, let’s hug each other, smile about it and laugh it off. No. When she says something, everybody’s listening and it’s hey, ‘let’s not make that mistake again.’”

The verbal part of Pondexter’s style is one that comes naturally and is one that could help the Sky avoid another early exit. Despite leading the league in scoring last season, the Sky were next to last in defense.

Making certain that juxtaposition doesn’t happen again hasn’t just been a focus for the Sky, but for Pondexter’s messaging as well. Sky coach Pokey Chatman relies on Pondexter to be her voice on the floor, making sure that the things that need to happen to keep the Sky in championship contention happen.

“The girls – they all don’t have that kind of characteristic and so it’s easy for them to kind of rely on me to do that,” Pondexter said. “I don’t mind it. I know at the end of the day sometimes, not everybody is going to like me, but you have to speak the truth and I think they respect me for that.”

Fire add De Leeuw

The Fire announced Tuesday the addition of Dutch midfielder Michael De Leeuw from Dutch Eredivisie side FC Groningen. De Leeuw signed a three-year deal with the Fire and will join the club once he receives his visa.

De Leeuw isn’t eligible to play for the Fire until July 4 when MLS’s transfer window opens, but can participate in training in the meantime. De Leeuw led FC Groningen in scoring with nine goals and two assist in 29 games and has scored 46 goals for his club over the past five seasons.

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