Sky’s James Wade has significant roster moves to make as season approaches

Over the course of the next week, Wade will have to finalize his roster ahead of the season opener against the Los Angeles Sparks on May 6 narrowing it down from 19 to 11 players.

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WNBA Finals - Game Two

Before the Sky’s season opener against the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday coach/GM James Wade will have to narrow his roster from 19 to 11.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Sky have made progress in bringing Li Yueru to Chicago.

Since reports last month that said the Chinese Basketball Association had not permitted Li to play in the WNBA this year, her agent, Mike Cound, said she received approval, has her passport and is waiting for a work visa. Cound is confident Li will be in Chicago by June, but nothing is confirmed.

“We think she adds a unique dynamic to us,” Sky coach/general manager James Wade said.

Cound speculates that the CBA wanted to evaluate the situation before permitting Li to play in the WNBA.

Li will strengthen a deep Sky frontcourt that includes Azura Stevens, Candace Parker, Emma Meesseeman and Ruthy Hebard. Those four are talented, finesse players with length; Li brings physicality and size.

At 6-7, Li is a dominant inside presence, which the Sky need after Astou Ndour-Fall opted to sit out the season and Stefanie Dolson signed with the Liberty.

During the Tokyo Olympics, Li averaged 14.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists for China.

“We need a rim protector, a big body, a banger,” Vandersloot said on Day 1 of training camp.

Wade has waived four players in the first two weeks of training camp: Imani McGee-Stafford, Lexi Held, Kamiah Smalls and Kayla Wells. He’ll have to cut his roster from 19 players to 11 ahead of the season opener May 6 against the Sparks.

Parker arrived in Chicago this weekend and is expected to be in camp all week, but WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper won’t be in town until mid-May. Julie Allemand also is expected to arrive after the start of the season.

Wade could end up signing players to replacement contracts upon qualifying for a hardship exception. The exception can be used when a team has fewer than 10 available players. That would be the case for the Sky without Copper, Yueru and Allemand.

The Sky have had one of the deepest training-camp rosters in the WNBA, with a handful of players showing their potential. Kaela Davis, who arrived to camp late because of her duties in Turkey, is one of the most experienced camp players left on the roster.

In the Sky’s 79-75 preseason loss to the Fever on Saturday, Davis came off the bench and had 10 points, three rebounds and one steal.

Sparkle Taylor is another player with the potential to make the roster. Vandersloot said early in camp that the Sky need a spark off the bench who can give players such as Copper and Allie Quigley a rest. In camp, Taylor has proved she’s a skilled scorer who attacks the rim, the type of player the Sky could use after the departure of Diamond DeShields. 

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