Sky must establish balanced offense in second half of season

“If we play the right way, you never know who is going to go off,” Emre Vatansever said. “I’m expecting there might be some more players with improved stats in the second half because we’re trying to share the ball.”

SHARE Sky must establish balanced offense in second half of season
The Sky’s Alanna Smith  and Jackie Young of the Las Vegas Aces go after a loose ball during a game last month.

The Sky’s Alanna Smith and Jackie Young of the Las Vegas Aces go after a loose ball during a game last month.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

PHOENIX — Alanna Smith returned from the All-Star break with remnants of a black eye she suffered in the Sky’s 88-77 loss to the Dream on July 9.

The stitches binding the cut above her right eye were gone, but a fading purple color served as a reminder that Smith had taken significant contact. In fact, all season, Smith has been the Sky’s most physical presence in the post, taking knock after knock from the league’s All-Star bigs.

A couple of games before the black eye, she took an elbow to the forehead that forced her to the locker room. In the first half of the season, Smith has been a key in helping the Sky stay in games. In the second half, the Sky will need increased production from her along with Elizabeth Williams if they want to finish more of them on the winning end.

“All-Star wasn’t just a physical break,” Smith said. “It was a mental break, too. Basketball season is a grind, especially when you’re playing a lot of games in such a short amount of time. It was nice to have a bit of a reset.”

In her first season with the Sky, Smith is the team’s third-leading scorer at 9.8 points per game and averages a team-high 6.5 rebounds. She’s shooting 50% from the field with two perfect nights, including one in June when she shot 4-for-4 from three against the Liberty.

One of James Wade’s final moves as Sky general manager was signing Smith to a one-year, $100,000 unprotected veteran contract. After four unstable years in the WNBA, Smith is having a breakout season worthy of a multiyear deal in free agency.

The Sky had two sharp practices since returning from the All-Star break. They take on the Mercury on Thursday.

Interim coach/GM Emre Vatansever said he’ll be implementing new schemes in the second half of the season that will emphasize the Sky’s multiple weapons. The Sky have proved that on any given night a number of players can go on scoring runs. They have to figure out how to score together.

For example, Marina Mabrey scored 36 points in the Sky’s 92-90 loss to the Fever in June. Kahleah Copper was unavailable that game, but the next two highest scorers for the Sky, Dana Evans and Robyn Parks, combined for 34. Williams scored 16 in the Sky’s loss to the Sun right before the break and Copper 22, but the remaining five scorers had less than 10 points each.

“We need everybody to contribute,” Vatansever said. “If we play the right way, you never know who is going to go off. I’m expecting there might be some more players with improved stats in the second half because we’re trying to share the ball.”

Vatansever’s message to the players returning from the break was that if they’re playing well, anybody can be utilized in his rotation.

He didn’t elaborate on what specific changes he might make in the second half, just that he needs more from players one through 11.

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