Sky’s Diamond DeShields has had a new outlook this season

The 2019 All-Star says she left the 2020 bubble because of stress.

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Chicago Sky’s Diamond DeShields (1) shoots and scores over Connecticut Sun’s Kaila Charles (3) and Brionna Jones during the second half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Chicago. The Sky won 81-75. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: ILCA110

Charles Rex Arbogast, AP Photos

When Diamond DeShields shows up, people notice.

Her style is singular, effortless and constantly changing. So, when she sat courtside (next to future Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan) at the WNBA’s 17th All-Star Game in Las Vegas in July, it was no surprise that she stood out.

It was a different vantage point for the Sky’s shooting guard compared to the last time she was in Las Vegas for the All-Star Game two years before.

In 2019, she was playing.

“I wanted to be upset,” DeShields said. “And I was very briefly, until I put into perspective how far I’ve come on my own journey.”

Being one of 144 players in the WNBA is supposed to be hard. The more aligned you are with your goals, the harder things get because you’re being guided to level up.

That’s the advice DeShields received from new teammate Candace Parker.

At the beginning of the 2021 season, Parker said she was reminded a lot of herself looking at DeShields and the intensity with which she approaches the game.

DeShields is typically the first player in the gym. Nobody puts more pressure on her to be great than she does on herself. She deals with that drive to be great and the weight that comes with it by reminding herself to control what she can control.

During the 2020 WNBA bubble season, there was little the rising star could control both professionally and personally.

“The ‘why’, I was stressed,” DeShields said of leaving the bubble. “I was dealing with a high dose of stress in my life.”

DeShields was adamant that America’s overdue awakening to systemic racism and police violence against Black women and men played a minor role in the stress she was navigating.

The choice to leave the bubble was about nobody but DeShields. She said it was hard to be that selfish, but she ultimately had to do what was best for her.

“You don’t know what people are going through,” DeShields said. “That’s something I take with me every day. I don’t judge people for anything.”

DeShields has learned to prioritize her mental health in ways she never has before. Whether from maturity or life experience, she understands now how important it is to approach the game with gratitude. She also understands the need to unplug.

One way she does that is through meditation. DeShields tries to meditate twice, sometimes three times, a day if the Sky are playing. In the morning, at night and before games she connects to the silence and it helps her remain centered and at peace.

Following the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game and a three-day trip to celebrate her teammates, DeShields flew back to Chicago and immediately went back to work.

Her game is a work in progress. DeShields is not the same player she was in 2019 when she became a first-time WNBA All-Star after leading the Sky in scoring, averaging 16.9 points.

This season, DeShields came in working her way back from a lingering knee injury she suffered in 2020.

She also came in this season ready to embrace a new role with the Sky as a lockdown defender and all-around playmaker.

In the second part of the season, Wade is looking for DeShields to be more efficient with the ball. Through the first 20 games, DeShields is the Sky’s fourth-leading scorer with 11.9 points on 40% shooting.

Another priority is DeShields’ scoring in transition. In 2019 she led the league in fast-break points, averaging 3.7 points a game.This year, Kahleah Copper is the league leader with 3.4.

The message as the Sky prepares for the second part of the season is that there’s still work to do. DeShields hasn’t stopped.

“I don’t think we’ve seen what we’re going to see from Diamond going forward,” Sky coach and general manager James Wade said. “The sky is the limit for her.”

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