Coach James Wade ended the Sky’s last practice before the All-Star break more than an hour early Thursday. He knew his players had flights to Las Vegas to catch.
But it wasn’t just the Sky’s three All-Stars — guards Diamond DeShields, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot — who lugged their baggage to the practice facility in Deerfield.
The WNBA All-Star competitions and game this weekend will be a team affair, with all but three Sky players planning to make the trip to support their teammates.
In past seasons, Vandersloot said she was the only one who joined her wife and teammate, Quigley, at the All-Star Game.
This season is different, partly because the festivities are in Las Vegas. But it’s also no surprise to anyone who has been around the team that the players would pay their own way to support their teammates.
“With our team, we already knew how close we were, but I think we’ve gotten even closer,” forward Cheyenne Parker said. “And we like to be around each other. Coach Wade always jokes around, ‘You guys actually like each other.’ We’re around each other even when we don’t have to be, and I think that says a lot.”
This week, several Sky players spent their day off goofing around Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. On other days off this season, they’ve relaxed at their apartment complex’s rooftop pool.
Forward Jantel Lavender, whom the Sky acquired in a preseason trade, described the camaraderie to that of her 2016 Sparks team, which went on to win the WNBA title.
“Everybody was super close and everybody supported each other, so it’s good to be back on a team where everybody wants to support each other,” Lavender said. “Just because we’re going to Vegas didn’t mean we had to go to the game, but everybody wants to go, support, be there to show that we’re all here together.”
And for the Sky’s All-Star trio, that gesture means the world.
“We’re all All-Stars, and we couldn’t be there without any of them,” said Quigley, who will defend her three-point-shooting title Friday. “If any team is like that in the league, I think it’s us. We have such a good team where we need every single person. We just can’t rely on one. It says a lot about our team and them. For them to come is just amazing.”
The Sky’s chemistry is paying off on the court. They’re 11-8 and in position to earn their first playoff berth since 2016.
Parker said the positive shift within the organization is because of Wade.
“We’ve kind of just turned the culture around,” she said. “It’s more family-based instead of political crap like other teams deal with. We’re more focused on winning as a team. And I think that’s the most important thing. As long as we keep a selfless mindset, we’re going to be successful.”
WNBA All-Star Weekend highlights
Allie Quigley defends three-point title; Diamond DeShields, Courtney Vandersloot participate in skills challenge, 6 p.m., ESPN
All-Star Game, 2:30 p.m., Ch. 7