What could entice Courtney Vandersloot to opt out of 2022 WNBA season?

A league source says Vandersloot’s overseas team UMMC Ekaterinburg is pursuing the opportunity to pay her to miss the WNBA season.

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Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) brings the ball up court against the Dallas Wings during the first half in the first round of the WNBA basketball playoffs, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski) ORG XMIT: CXA133

Kamil Krzaczynski, AP Photos

Sky fans were rightfully excited when it was reported that Finals MVP Kahleah Copper would be re-signing on a two-year deal.

Sky coach/general manager James Wade used the core designation on her a few weeks before, so it was no surprise.

“North Philly is back,” Candace Parker said via text, sharing in the celebration.

Copper’s return to the Sky is something to be celebrated after unrestricted free agent Stefanie Dolson signed a multiyear deal with the New York Liberty and restricted free agent Diamond DeShields said she doesn’t see a future playing for the Sky.

After securing Copper, Wade took another step towards the franchise’s goal of repeating as champions by adding 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman. Terms of Meesseman’s deal were not disclosed, and the team has yet to announce either signing.

The signing of Crystal Bradford to a training-camp contract and acquisition of Julie Allemand in a three-team trade that sent Diamond DeShields to the Phoenix Mercury rounded out Wade’s early free-agency moves. Bradford will be looking to reestablish her value this season, which will start with a one-game suspension due to her involvement in a fight last May outside of an Atlanta club.

In terms of her ability to replace DeShields as a wing coming off the bench, Bradford’s 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 18.3 minutes per game last season for the Dream meet the Sky’s needs.

Sky fans were troubled by a report that Courtney Vandersloot’s overseas team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, was pursuing the option of paying the WNBA’s top point guard to sit out a year.

Vandersloot made it clear before free agency began that she would be open to all possibilities, and playing for a successful team in 2022 was a priority. There’s no arguing that Meesseman adds significant value to an already talented Sky roster.

With Vandersloot and Allie Quigley back with the Sky, they once again would be championship favorites.

So, what could entice Vandersloot to sit out? Two factors: money and health.

The max base salary any WNBA team could offer Vandersloot in 2022 is $228,094. Re-signing Copper and going after a player like Meesseman is a good indicator that players on the Sky are taking team-friendly deals for the payoff of going back-to-back. For reference, Meesseman’s 2020 contract with the Washington Mystics was a veteran max worth $215,000.

Meesseman is also Vandersloot’s teammate overseas, so it’s unlikely that Vandersloot was unaware of Wade’s push to sign her.

UMMC Ekaterinburg can offer her an amount of money that can’t be matched in the WNBA to give her body a break from the yearlong grind she has been committed to since the Sky drafted her in 2011. In 2015, Diana Taurasi opted to sit out the WNBA season at the request of UMMC Ekaterinburg, whom she played for at the time.

The team offered to pay Taurasi more than her league max salary of $107,000 at the time to rest and be ready for the following EuroLeague season.

Vandersloot always has been adamant that she’s thankful to play basketball year round. She estimated, though, that she has had only 30 days off each year since being taken third overall by the Sky. Those 30 days aren’t even consecutive either; they’re broken up over the entire year of playing.

This offseason, Vandersloot dealt with a minor injury to her plantar fascia that kept her sidelined from EuroLeague play through December. On top of earning a bigger paycheck to sit out, Vandersloot would be provided a luxury she never has had in her professional career — rest.

In an interview for the Equal Play podcast, new Sky assistant coach Ann Wauters reminisced about her time playing with Vandersloot. One thing that still stands out to her is how uncomfortable Vandersloot was with taking time off from the game.

When talking about the Sky’s 2022 roster, Wauters went as far as saying, “Vandersloot will probably be back.”

In the past, Vandersloot’s motivating factors for re-signing with the Sky were rooted in loyalty and a desire to win a title with the Sky. Now having won one, those factors may have changed slightly.

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