Forward Jantel Lavender was sporting a new accessory Sunday, which is a cause for concern for the Sky going forward.
Lavender was wearing a walking boot on her left foot, which she injured halfway through the third quarter of the win against the Aces on Friday in Las Vegas.
Coach James Wade told the Sun-Times in a phone interview after the Sky’s 84-81 loss to the Sparks on Sunday in Los Angeles that Lavender underwent tests, but he isn’t sure on her timeline until she’s examined by the team doctor in Chicago.
Losing Lavender for the foreseeable future is a big setback for the Sky (14-10), who are fifth in the playoff standings and three games behind the league-leading Mystics.
Lavender has been key to the Sky’s success this season and in helping change the team’s culture.
“It’s tough losing anyone on this team . . . but specifically her,” said guard Allie Quigley, who had a team-high 20 points Sunday. “She’s been playing really well lately and shooting the ball like no other posts in the league. But we just have to find a way and other players will step up.”
Acquired during a preseason trade, Lavender, who was an All-Star in 2015 and sixth woman of the year in 2016, has returned to form after three subpar seasons with the Sparks. She has been big on the glass, averaging 6.9 rebounds, which is her best mark since 2015. She’s also averaging 10 points on 49% shooting, the second-best field-goal percentage on the team.
Lavender, who is the only player on the Sky to win a WNBA title, has filled a leadership void the team has been missing.
“When Jantel Lavender came here, she started creating and molding a championship atmosphere and culture,” said Kahleah Copper, who scored eight points against the Sparks. “She’s really taken a role with us and just showing us how to do it because she’s done it.”
Meanwhile, Wade is looking for the rest of his team to step up in Lavender’s absence. He put forward Astou Ndour in her regular spot in the starting lineup against the Sparks, and she had one of her best games of the season, recording seven points and four blocks.
Asked if he would like to see Ndour step up in Lavender’s absence, Wade said: “I don’t know what you mean.
“We’re going to play how we’re going to play, like, I don’t know what that means. . . . We’re going to depend on all 12 or 11 players that we have like we did today.”
NOTE: Jantel Lavender wasn’t the only player absent from the starting five. Point guard Courtney Vandersloot missed the game due to illness, which resulted in Gabby Williams (six points and six assists) making her second start.