State of the Sky: GM and coach James Wade adamant team isn’t rebuilding

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James Wade believes he can bring a winning culture to the Chicago Sky. | Courtesy of Chicago Sky

The Chicago Sky seem to be the textbook definition of a rebuilding team. They haven’t been to playoffs since 2016 and fired their general manager and coach this offseason after they won only 25 games over the last two seasons.

But new general manager and coach James Wade is adamant that’s not the case.

“I definitely don’t think it’s in a rebuilding state,” Wade told the Sun-Times in a phone interview. “My expectation is I came here to take this team to the playoffs and I want to go to the playoffs right away. But it’s a process to doing it.”

That process started this offseason with the Sky securing a few key players.

In January, the Sky designated star guard Courtney Vandersloot as a core player, which is essentially the WNBA’s version of a franchise tag. They also re-signed forward Cheyenne Parker and guard Allie Quigley.

“That was one of the main goals for me to say, ‘OK my offseason was successful,'” Wade said of retaining Vandersloot, Quigley and Parker. “It would’ve been really hard this year if we didn’t [re-sign them].”

With Wade’s top offseason priorities a lock, he’s shifted his focus to figuring out what went wrong with the Sky last season.

Wade watched the Sky struggle from afar last season as an assistant for the Lynx. Though his predecessor Amber Stock put an emphasis on defense, the Sky allowed a league-most 90.1 points per game.

It wasn’t a matter of not having the right personnel in place, Wade said. The Sky had great passers, but they struggled to take care of the ball, which resulted in a league-high 15.1 turnovers per game.

“The connection wasn’t there,” Wade said.

There were a lot of things that led to the Sky’s demise. But Wade pinpointed the team’s lack of “identity” as the main reason it couldn’t string together more than three wins at a time last year.

“Sometimes with teams you want to put a strength together and say, ‘This is the focus, this is who we are,’ but it doesn’t match the personnel,” Wade said. “You can say all day, ‘I want to be a good defensive team or have a good defensive identity,’ but sometimes teams your offense kind of dictates how you’re going to play defense.

It’s clear that the Sky, who was fifth in the league for scoring last season, is more of an offensive-minded team. Last season, they had four players averaging in double-digit points. They also have two of the best three-point shooters in the league with Quigley and Vandersloot, who averaged 42 percent and 39.8 percent, respectively.

“You have to prioritize how you’re going to play and what you’re going to do and what’s going to make you a stronger group,” Wade said. “My main goal is to get these players better, play as a unit.”

Wade understands the urgency in the organization to make the postseason, but once training camp opens on May 5, that thought will be put on the back burner.

“Once the season starts, we’re not going to talk about [making the playoffs],” Wade said. “We’re just trying to get better. We have our expectations, they’ll already be set in, but you can’t worry about those long-term goals too much or you skip over details, and when you try to make a marathon a sprint, that’s never good.”

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