Jantel Lavender remains baffled by trade from Sky but optimistic about possible future with Fever
The former Sky player is still trying to make sense of the deal to the Fever after one season in Chicago.
Jantel Lavender was heading to a friend’s birthday party in August when Sky general manager/coach James Wade told her she was being traded.
The 10-year forward was completely blindsided. At the time, Lavender was working on TV broadcasts for the Sky for free after having season-ending surgery in June.
A few hours later, the news became official. The Sky had dealt Lavender and two 2021 draft picks to the Fever for forward Stephanie Mavunga at the trade deadline.
‘‘There was a lot that was going through my head,’’ Lavender said. ‘‘The intrinsic value that I felt like I added to the team, I don’t think it was taken into consideration at all. I could not believe when they traded me.’’
The Sky gave up a lot for Mavunga, a young, unproven player. She had a strong start to the season before she broke her nose, posting career highs in points (five) and rebounds (four) in five games with the Fever.
Wade said the move was necessary as the Sky — depleted by injuries — were preparing for a playoff push. But Mavunga didn’t add much offensively or defensively in the five games she played in, and the Sky were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
The trade still doesn’t quite make sense to Lavender.
‘‘You think of longevity. Can you really see yourself winning a championship this year?’’ she said. ‘‘It was promising early on, but . . . you’re trading in desperation [not] to build for the future. I just think it was kind of an impulsive decision.’’
The Sky had traded for Lavender before the 2019 season, hoping she could bring veteran leadership and championship experience. But she did so much more than that. Lavender had her best season in four years.
‘‘I felt like we were getting to a place where we had a group of great players,’’ she said. ‘‘We might not have had a star, but I felt like when we were playing against Vegas and I broke my foot [in August 2019], I could see the potential that the team had. We were together. Our unit as five was better than somebody’s one star player. And I thought that we were really moving in the right direction, and then it just kind of backslid.’’
Lavender wanted to make it clear she has no ill feelings toward the Sky.
‘‘It’s business, and I have the utmost respect for the program,’’ she said.
Lavender said the adversity she has experienced in the last year has helped shape her future goals. She signed up to get her doctorate in sports psychology at Regents University and hopes to help athletes struggling with injuries or mental health get through those tough times ‘‘because I know how hard it is.’’
‘‘I just want to be there for athletes because this was no joke,’’ Lavender said. ‘‘To feel completely abandoned by a program that I felt at home with . . . was just a dagger to the heart, and I’m saying that with my head held high right now. I’m in a good, good place.’’
Lavender said her ring-chasing days are over. While it’s too early to say what she’ll do in free agency — players were allowed to begin negotiating Friday but can’t sign until Feb. 1 — Lavender is planning to play in 2021.
‘‘I feel like I’ve won a championship in this league [in 2016 with the Sparks]; I want to kind of give to a team with young players that haven’t,’’ Lavender said. ‘‘I just feel kind of a loyalty [to the Fever]. . . . I think that they can win a championship in the future, and I want to help them build that.’’