Copper shows faith in Sky, signs contract extension

Throughout the team's 18-year history in the WNBA, one trend was constant: The Sky's best players left when they got the chance.

The list includes Candice Dupree, Sylvia Fowles and Elena Della Donne. Courtney Vandersloot stayed for a while, but she and Candace Parker decided to bolt last winter rather than risk a rebuild. The team's only championship coach, James Wade, joined the list when he took a job with the Toronto Raptors midway through this season.

So it was significant news when all-star forward Kahleah Copper agreed to a two-year extension from the Sky on Sunday. She chose not to hit free-agency in the offseason, which gives the team a rare dose of stability, even while the coaching situation is uncertain.

Assistant Emre Vatansever became the interim coach when Wade left, and it's not clear what's in store for next season.

Copper, 29, is averaging a career-high 18.7 points, eighth-best in the league, to go with 4.4 rebounds and 40.4% shooting from 3-point range.

"Chicago has been everything I could've asked for and more over the past seven seasons," the Philadelphia native said in a statement. "This is where I've grown as a player, as a person, and where I'm proud to say I've become one with this community."

This move gives the Sky five players under contract for 2024 - Copper, guards Marina Mabrey and Dana Evans, center Elizabeth Williams, and forward Isabelle Harrison, who missed the season with a knee injury.

Among the key free agents are guard Courtney Williams, who led the Sky in assists, and Australian forward Alanna Smith, one of the league's most improved players. The Sky traded next year's first-round draft pick to Dallas for Mabrey.

Another question is who will be in charge this winter? Will the Sky hire a general manager or continue to ask the head coach to perform both roles? Will there be any firm plans announced for a practice facility? How much will new addition to the ownership group Dwyane Wade be involved in recruiting players?

There was speculation the Sky might go after the WNBA's leading scorer Jewell Loyd, a Niles West High School grad, but she signed an extension with Seattle this week.

Copper sat out Sunday's regular-season finale at Connecticut to rest a toe injury. The Sky won 102-91 behind an impressive triple-double from Courtney Williams, with 23 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists. The No. 8 seed Sky (18-22) will open the WNBA playoffs on Wednesday at No. 1 Las Vegas for a best-of-three first-round series.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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