Kahleah Copper is glue holding struggling Sky together

As the Sky embrace the break, Copper is gearing up for her third straight All-Star appearance Saturday.

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The Sky’s Kahleah Copper

“What I’m trying to tell the team is what somebody told me,” the Sky’s Kahleah Copper said. “It’s not about you. If you mess up in the moment, you have to have a short-term memory because you don’t want that one [bad play] to turn into two, that two to turn into three or get contagious around the group.”

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images.

A lot can change in a year, just ask the Sky.

Last July, they were vying with the Las Vegas Aces for the best record in the league. As a result, James Wade was coaching against Becky Hammon in the All-Star Game, hosted by Chicago for the first time in WNBA history. The Sky (8-12) had four All-Stars, and Allie Quigley was on the cusp of making history in the three-point contest.

Twelve months later, they are eighth in league standings, riding a three-game losing streak — following an 84-72 loss Wednesday to the Sun — into the All-Star break.

As far as teams in need of time off, the Sky make a strong case for being the most desperate.

“Any adversity that hits, when things are not going well, they respond well,” interim coach/general manager Emre Vatansever said.

The Sky, though, haven’t responded well.

Since Wade’s departure, they are 1-3, and the schedule is unforgiving in the second half of the season, with more than half of their remaining games on the road. Also, the Sky have failed when it comes to in-game responses to adversity.

They lost back-to-back games against the Dream after an inability to execute in the fourth quarter. Against the Sun, the Sky let turnovers, missed shots and poor defense compound a single-possession game into an 18-point deficit.

In the midst of the in-game adversity, the players’ frustrations were apparent.

“That frustration comes from competitiveness,” Kahleah Copper said. “You want to do everything right. You want to make the perfect pass to your teammates. You don’t want to turn it over. You want to make the winning plays.”

So, what is Copper’s answer when they seem unable to?

“What I’m trying to tell the team is what somebody told me,” Copper said. “It’s not about you. If you mess up in the moment, you have to have a short-term memory because you don’t want that one [bad play] to turn into two, that two to turn into three or get contagious around the group.”

Copper was adamant that this is a group of teammates she’d “go to war with.” That mentality from the Sky’s certified leader is important. Copper is the team’s lone All-Star and the glue that appears to be holding the franchise together at the moment.

Wade’s resignation isn’t the only bout of hardship the Sky have endured this season. Before his departure, two of the key contributors — Rebekah Gardner and Isabelle Harrison — suffered major injuries. Both are in the midst of extended absences with no return in sight.

Vatansever is still implementing his system and trying to find rotations he believes work well together. After going to his starting group in an attempt to close out the game against the Dream on Sunday, he opted for a small lineup to end it Wednesday.

“I wanted to see if it works,” Vatansever said. “See if I can win more games by stretching the floor a little bit more. Didn’t work out.”

Copper had a game-high 22 points along with four assists and three rebounds against the Sun. Elizabeth Williams finished with 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting and eight rebounds. Marina Mabrey added nine points and Dana Evans contributed eight.

Copper is headed to Las Vegas, where she’ll make her third consecutive All-Star appearance Saturday night. On the other side of that is the second half of a season she came into expecting to be the leader.

Although, it’s hard to imagine she expected to lead the Sky through all of this.

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