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Kahleah Copper proves Sky is her ceiling in season opener

Copper finished with a game-high 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Chicago Sky v Washington Mystics
Kahleah Copper finished with a game-high 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In Candace Parker’s debut with her hometown team, it was fitting that she scored the Sky’s first five points in their 70-56 road victory against the Washington Mystics at Entertainment & Sports Arena.

More important, she raised the ceiling for her new teammates, specifically Kahleah Copper.

“I hope we don’t lose her to the Olympics for the 400, the 100 or the 200 because she’s one of the fastest players I’ve ever seen,” said Parker, who played 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks before joining the Sky. “She’s that rebounding guard that comes back and is able to get those boards. It’s definitely more fun for me to be on her team.”

Copper had a game-high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Several times, Parker heaved the ball to Copper for easy baskets in transition.

Parker knows those easy scores are the result of fulfilling their defensive responsibilities. Parker, who had 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists, blocked three shots.

Ahead of the game, Diamond DeShields talked about coach/general manager James Wade’s expectations for herself and Copper this season. She said their top priority is to disrupt opponents’ offenses.

DeShields, who had seven points, five assists and three rebounds, did that right at the outset, taking a charge in the first three minutes.

“We talked about a defensive mindset,” Wade said. “That’s how we were gauging our play.

‘‘The sense of urgency on the defensive side of the ball is something we’re going to keep paying attention to.”

It was the Sky’s third win against the Mystics since trading Elena Delle Donne in February 2017. Delle Donne, who had two offseason back surgeries, did not play.

Wade had said the Sky would keep the same game plan whether Delle Donne played or sat out. Last season, Leilani Mitchell had a double-double against the Sky, so Wade’s goal was to make her uncomfortable. Mitchell went 0-for-6 from the field, including 0-for-5 from three-point range.

Another Sky key was locking up Ariel Atkins, whom they held to five points in 21 minutes.

Despite the dominant victory, there was still much to clean up. The Sky committed 14 turnovers, which Wade attributed to first-game jitters and the newness of the lineup.

The starting five — Courtney Vandersloot, DeShields, Copper, Parker and Stefanie Dolson — had a different look with Copper in for Allie Quigley.

A veteran knockdown shooter, Quigley said this week that she’s going to play any role this team expects of her.

Parker said the turnovers will get cleaned up as the players learn each other’s tendencies, but she added that the team has to be smarter with the ball.

Wade said the cohesion and chemistry will continue to develop, and while it does, his primary focus will be on defense.

The Sky rushed to catch a plane after the game. They play the Atlanta Dream on the road Wednesday before returning for their home opener at Wintrust Arena against the New York Liberty on Sunday.

“No charter planes here,” Wade said with a laugh before signing off on his Zoom call.