Will Sky be better off without Delle Donne?

  • 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne is gone from the Chicago Sky and while losing a player of her caliber is normally crippling to a team, Patricia Babcock McGraw says it might be just what the Sky needs in the long run.

    2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne is gone from the Chicago Sky and while losing a player of her caliber is normally crippling to a team, Patricia Babcock McGraw says it might be just what the Sky needs in the long run. Associated Press file photo/Sept. 2015

Updated 2/10/2017 5:56 PM

Here's an interesting question: Which group is more frustrated right now -- Bears fans or Sky fans?

Could be a toss-up.


While Bears fans are disgusted by a hot mess on the field, Sky fans are frustrated by a hot mess off the court.

From the outside looking in, Sky fans must be wondering, "What the heck is going on with this franchise?"

Two seasons ago, the Sky lost its franchise player, 6-foot-6 center Sylvia Fowles. Fowles wanted out of town and demanded a trade to Minnesota, and sat out until the Sky made that happen. Fowles then won the most valuable player of the WNBA Finals later that season in leading the Lynx to the championship.

Now, it's déjà vu with franchise player Elena Delle Donne, the 2015 WNBA Most Valuable Player who pulled a Fowles last month and said she would sit the upcoming season unless the Sky traded her.

Delle Donne was traded last week to Washington, and in return the Sky got 2015 All-Star Stefanie Dolson, last year's No. 7 overall pick Kahleah Copper, and the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming 2017 WNBA Draft.

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Ummm … two franchise players lost in essentially two seasons? The optics are bad here.

And the Sky knows that.

But covering the WNBA can be like covering a league full of Bill Belichicks. It's difficult to get insightful information out of anyone on the record, and no one is saying what the real story is here.

But what I can say is that based on what I have heard through reliable sources, I am starting to come around to the idea that, in the long run, the Sky might be in an addition-by-subtraction situation.

While Delle Donne played some great basketball for the Sky and did some noble work with kids in community, she didn't seem entirely comfortable here. And perhaps she will never be comfortable anywhere unless she is in her own backyard and close to family.

Some have suggested that Delle Donne demanded a trade to the Mystics because that is the closest WNBA team to Delaware, where her nuclear family lives. In college, Delle Donne left Connecticut and the basketball team there after being there for like five minutes, went back home and enrolled at the University of Delaware, a school that would otherwise NEVER get a player of her caliber.


And when she went to China recently to play some off-season basketball for the first time in her career, Delle Donne returned abruptly, citing health concerns.

Delle Donne seems painfully out of her element when family is not around. And perhaps that projects in her relationships with others.

I'm not saying relationships with her Sky teammates were strained, but from my observations and discussions, they did seem off. And that could have played a role in Fowles' departure. Heck, it may have played a role in the firing of former Sky head coach Pokey Chatman a few months ago.

Last week I wrote about newly retired WNBA star Tamika Catchings, who spent her entire 16-year career with the Indiana Fever. She talked about her decision to stay loyal to one team.

One key point that Catchings made is that a team should never force a player to stay somewhere she doesn't want to be. It's just never going to produce good results in the long run.

I don't think Delle Donne was happy in Chicago, for possibly a lot of different reasons, and perhaps some that had nothing to do with the Sky. So let her go, and the Sky did just that.

It's tough to say goodbye to a player of Delle Donne's caliber. I enjoyed watching her play, and I appreciate her game.

But perhaps the Sky will be better off in the long run. No one will ever say that, but we'll know soon enough. The new season tips off in a few months.

Addition by subtraction. It might work.

• Patricia Babcock McGraw also works as a basketball color analyst for games involving DePaul University, the Big Ten, the Big East, Northern Illinois University, Chicago Sky and the Illinois High School Association. Follow her on Twitter @BabcockMcGraw.

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