Chicago Sky has firepower to make some noise
The blowouts are coming.
It only stands to reason, right?
The Chicago Sky, sporting a 7-1 start that is its best in franchise history, is finally on the plus side of the progression from pretender to contender. And although it's taken time (seven sometimes very painful years, to be exact), the Sky is following a pattern that should make comfortable wins a thing of the very near future.
"First we were getting blown out of games," sighed Sky president Adam Fox, reluctantly remembering the early years as an expansion team. "Then, we were still losing games, but they were close games. Now, we're winning the close games. It's just a matter of time before we're winning a lot of games and winning them big."
That point in the progression could come as early as this season.
This team has, from what I can tell so far, the firepower as well as the mental fortitude to make some noise ... even more noise than it has already made in catapulting to first place in the Eastern Conference standings.
We'll find out with more certainty over the next 10 days what this team is really all about -- as the next three games are against two of the best teams in the league, the perennial power Indiana Fever and the defending WNBA champion and undefeated Minnesota Lynx (9-0).
The Sky is in Indiana today (6 p.m., Comcast Channel 100) and is in Minnesota next Saturday before another game against the Fever on Wednesday, June 27, at Allstate Arena.
"Every stretch is tough because all the teams in this league are capable of answering each other's calls," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. "We just have to stay tough."
The Sky has already lost once to the Fever, but has played much more in sync since then, thanks in large part to the efforts of guard Epiphanny Prince and center Sylvia Fowles.
If you haven't had a chance to witness the magic of Prince, you've missed out.
Over the past couple of weeks, she had three consecutive games of 30 or more points in which she went crazy from 3-point range, particularly in the clutch. In fact, she helped the Sky rally from deficits and forced overtimes in two games by hitting buzzer-beating 3-pointers.
Prince, who has won the last two Eastern Conference player of the week awards, leads the WNBA in scoring at 24.3 points per game.
Her partner in crime has been the 6-foot-6 Fowles, who averages 18.3 points per game and almost threw down a dunk the other night. Together, they are the most potent scoring duo in the WNBA, accounting for 42.6 points per game.
On top of that, Fowles, named the WNBA player of the month for May, also leads the WNBA at 14.6 rebounds per game. She has been a monster in the paint. There is no other big girl like her in the league, perhaps even in the world.
Fowles will be a big reason the U.S. national team will cruise to Olympic gold this summer in London. Her goal is to then return home for the second half of the WNBA season and, along with Prince, help the Sky solidify a playoff berth -- the first one in franchise history -- in similarly convincing fashion. The Sky wants no guessing games at the end of the season, and this start will go a long way in making a serious playoff push possible.
"We're playing the way we always knew we could play now," Prince said. "People are playing within themselves, doing what they do well, and we're all working together, too."
The Sky is the hottest team in Chicago, so plan a trip out to Allstate Arena and take it all in. The Sky's next home game is Wednesday, June 27 at 11:30 a.m. against former Stevenson star Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever. The game should be a near sellout as kids from all over the area will be in attendance as part of "Camp Day."
•Patricia Babcock McGraw has covered the Chicago Sky since its inaugural season in 2006. She is also the color analyst for all Sky television games, which are broadcast on Comcast CN100.