Sky’s early success a direct result of bond developed by fresh-faced team

Eight games in, the Sky’s 97.3 defensive rating is fourth in the league. Their offensive rating (98.3) is eighth, but in six clutch games this season, it improves to second (123.9) behind the Aces.

SHARE Sky’s early success a direct result of bond developed by fresh-faced team
Sky coach/GM James Wade hopes creating a strong bond among his players will translate into success on the court.

Sky coach/GM James Wade hopes creating a strong bond among his players will translate into success on the court.

NBAE via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — The Sky’s two-game West Coast trip started on a sour note.

There were no additions to the team’s lengthy injury report, but a restaurant suggestion by Courtney Williams left the team less than satisfied.

“They let her choose,” Sky coach/general manager James Wade said. “They’re never going to let her choose again. I don’t know what it was, but the food was nasty. She apologized to them. They’re cutting her off. Next time, it’s going to be [Kahleah Copper] choosing or somebody else.”

Wade laughed as he explained Williams’ failed attempt to choose the team dinner. While the dinner choice was a failure, the Sky’s efforts to develop chemistry have been a huge success. A month into the season, the team is fourth in the league standings with a 5-3 record, and it’s a direct result of the bonds being formed off the court.

“They’re spending a lot of time with each other,” Wade said. “I love it. We’re spending time doing stuff together, and it’s going to make it a special season for us.”

Before the season, Wade said he wanted to prioritize his team’s off-court connection. He admitted it was something he failed to do last season, saying the rhythm the team fell into created a blind spot.

With a mostly new roster aside from Copper, Dana Evans and Ruthy Hebard, the Sky’s success hinges on that connection carrying over to the court.

There are many similarities between Wade’s 2019 team and this version. Looking back at that roster, one of the reasons for its success was Wade’s ability to rally his team around the idea that no one believed in them. As a result, they were motivated all season by outside doubt.

This season, the Sky have not missed an opportunity to remind their audience that many expected them to fail, and they’ve appeared to relish it every time.

“We know we can play with any team,” Williams said after the Sky’s road victory Sunday against the New York Liberty. “We block out the noise, and we focus on us. When we win games like this, that’s for the people to create their own narratives, but we know what we got.”

The Sky’s 97.3 defensive rating is fourth in the league. Their offensive rating (98.3) is eighth, but in six clutch games this season, it improves to second (123.9) behind the Las Vegas Aces.

Clutch games are ones within five points in the last five minutes. The Sky have lost two of their six clutch games. The first was to the Washington Mystics. It was Marina Mabrey’s second game of the season after missing the preseason. Their second clutch loss was decided by one point against the Liberty, and they controlled the last possession but missed the last two shots.

The Sky’s only loss that was decided outside of clutch time was to the Atlanta Dream.

They are winning games by wearing teams out and forcing them into showdowns in the fourth quarter, which plays right into the gritty identity Wade has established. They’ve done it the last four games with fewer than 10 available players and only eight in the last two.

When asked if he was surprised by anything his team had accomplished, Wade had a succinct answer: “No.”

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