The most recognizable player in Sky history was at Wintrust Arena on Wednesday, but she wasn’t wearing blue and gold.
Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne returned to Chicago to face her former team and had a game-high 22 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes in Washington’s 81-74 victory.
It was the Mystics’ second victory this season over the Sky, who are 0-8 against Delle Donne since she was traded in February 2017.
What is it about the Mystics — and Delle Donne — that make them so unbeatable?
Sky coach James Wade was done with the discussion before it even began.
“They’re not the same team; it’s a different year,” Wade said. “And we’ll see them again. Just note that and stop talking about the past. It’s not the same team, and they’re not, either.”
The Sky have had their share of talented players the last few seasons, but none reached Delle Donne’s level of stardom in Chicago.
It has been more than two years since Delle Donne forced a trade so she could be closer to her family in Delaware. And Wade is right; the Sky have undergone some heavy reconstruction after Delle Donne’s departure.
Guards Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Jamierra Faulkner and forward Cheyenne Parker are the only players who played with Delle Donne in Chicago.
The Sky also have had two coaching changes and moved from Allstate Arena in Rosemont to Wintrust Arena in the South Loop.
But while Delle Donne, the league’s most valuable player in 2015, continued her dominance in Washington, the Sky have struggled to fill the void she left — or at least that was the case before this season.
After underachieving the last two years, the Sky (6-4) look like they’re finally turning the corner in Year 3 without Delle Donne.
After the game, Delle Donne tipped her cap to the new-and-improved Sky and was impressed with their intensity.
“Having a new coach [like Wade], they’re playing differently,” Delle Donne said. “They’re really tough offensively.
‘‘He has them running a lot of great sets with shooters everywhere, and they’re spacing well. They’re running the floor really well, so I think he’s done a great job so far.”
But Wade expected a better effort against the Mystics (8-3). The Sky allowed 17 points off 17 turnovers.
“That’s the only thing I can point to that really took us out of the game,” said Wade, who said the Sky were “careless with the ball.”
But the next time, Wade vowed that his team would break the cycle against the Mystics.
“We just have to execute the game plan,” Wade said. “We will next time, I promise.”
Quigley led the Sky with 21 points, and center Stefanie Dolson was the only other Sky player in double figures with 13 points.
Contributing: Khobi Price