LAS VEGAS — A few weeks ago, there was little for Sky star Kahleah Copper to feel certain about regarding her future in Chicago.
Of course, there was no questioning the franchise’s desire to sign Copper to an extension, but the three-time All-Star’s hints that she might prefer to test the waters of free agency were rooted in the precariousness of the Sky’s circumstances.
Who would be the team’s long-term coach?
Would the franchise hire a separate general manager?
What about living accommodations and the practice facility that has been talked about by ownership and management?
Just before tipoff in the Sky’s regular-season finale — the deadline for the team to sign Copper to an extension — she got her answers.
“There are a lot of things that aren’t out, so I’m respecting the privacy of the organization,” Copper told the Sun-Times. “But there are things to be set in place. For me, a lot of things were up in the air and I understand y’all are figuring it out, but let’s just shake on the fact that you told me this is going to happen, this is going to happen and this is going to happen.
“The Sky were able to do that for me.”
Aside from the clarity she needed ownership to provide, Copper’s decision to sign a two-year supermax extension Sunday resulted from personal reflection. The 2021 Finals MVP looked back on her career in Chicago and was reminded of everything she built.
Individually, she took her game to new levels, patiently biding her time on the bench during her first three years with the Sky before claiming a starting role in 2020 that she vowed she’d never give up. Copper was the spark on the Sky’s championship roster of veterans who, two years later, would hand the keys of the franchise over to her.
This season, she led the Sky to their fifth consecutive playoff berth, which kicked off Wednesday against the No. 1 Aces, averaging a career-high 18.7 points.
“I thought about people leaving,” Copper said. “How my career went. How I really started something here. You know, starting something here and it being seven years, I just can’t imagine starting over right now.”
When Dwyane Wade officially joined Sky ownership in July, he vowed that his involvement would extend beyond a monetary investment. His presence at the WNBA All-Star Game was a glimpse into the critically important role he could play in helping the Sky attract the league’s top stars.
Wade’s involvement in helping secure Copper’s contract extension proves his impact on the Sky’s future success can’t be understated.
“He told me they’re working on a lot of things,” Copper said. “He knew that a lot of things were up in the air for me. It’s important to have someone like him working on those things because he understands the player experience. He understands just from coming into something new like this and seeing, OK, no this isn’t how we should do it.
‘‘He knows what needs to be done, and I trust that he is able to convince and get the wheels turning.”
With their franchise player officially under contract through 2025, the work can begin in structuring the future around Copper. Marina Mabrey, Isabelle Harrison, Elizabeth Williams and Dana Evans are the only other players signed to protected contracts in 2024.
The Sky’s next step is finding a coach and a general manager who will be able to bring to life the vision ownership sold to Copper.