Sky players Diamond DeShields, Azura Stevens leave WNBA bubble before loss to Storm
Chicago Sky players Azura Stevens and Diamond DeShields have left the WNBA bubble, the team announced Saturday ahead of their game against the top-ranked Seattle Storm.
Sky players Diamond DeShields and Azura Stevens left the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida, the team announced Saturday.
A Sky source said DeShields, who has been dealing with injuries all season, participated in practice Friday. She left the bubble for personal reasons, the team said. Stevens, meanwhile, left after suffering a season-ending injury to her left knee.
‘‘We were sad to see them go, but we just have to make do with it,’’ coach James Wade said before the Sky’s 88-74 loss Saturday to the league-leading Storm.
Kahleah Copper had 19 points, Allie Quigley 11 points and Courtney Vandersloot nine points and nine assists for the Sky (10-6). Breanna Stewart had 21 points and Natasha Howard 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Storm (13-3).
DeShields was the Sky’s leading scorer last season, averaging 16.2 points, but she hasn’t been at full strength this season while dealing with knee inflammation. She played only two minutes in her last game Aug. 20 against the Liberty before leaving with an injury to her right thigh.
DeShields has been outspoken about social justice and played a big part in developing Sky Takes Action, the team’s social-justice campaign. She’s also a part of former Bears linebacker Sam Acho’s Athletes for Justice and joined forces with some of the biggest athletes in Chicago to turn a liquor store in the Austin neighborhood into a pop-up grocery store run by kids.
Wade said he doesn’t expect DeShields to return this season.
Stevens, whom the Sky acquired in an offseason deal that sent 2019 first-round pick Katie Lou Samuelson to the Wings, was in the midst of her best WNBA season. She seamlessly filled the void left by injured forward Jantel Lavender and averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds.
Stevens missed the Sky’s last two games while dealing with soreness in her left knee. The team said she’ll be evaluated by a cartilage specialist to address an osteochondral defect in the joint.
‘‘We saw them [Saturday] and wished them well, and we just have to continue to play,’’ Wade said.
The departures are the latest blow for the Sky, who have been plagued by injuries all season. Lacking frontcourt depth without Lavender and Stevens, the Sky were forced to deal Lavender to the Fever for Stephanie Mavunga hours before the trade deadline Friday. The Sky also sent their second- and third-round picks in the 2021 draft to the Fever.
Coming off her best season in four years, Lavender didn’t join the Sky in Florida last month after having season-ending foot surgery in June.
With Lavender unable to play and on an expiring contract, it made perfect sense for the Sky to acquire a young player with a high upside such as Mavunga, who has been out with a broken nose.
Mavunga has averaged five points and four rebounds in five games this season. She has been cleared to play but is in quarantine as part of the WNBA’s coronavirus protocol. Wade said she might be available as soon as Tuesday.
‘‘She’s a good player,’’ Wade said. ‘‘[She’s] going to give us a healthy body, young, a lot of energy. [She] hasn’t reached her potential yet. We think she’s going to fit really well in our system.’’