Sky’s Teresa Weatherspoon era will be defined by defense

Chicago
By Chicago 5 Min Read

There are two WNBA franchises that have put the league on notice, starting with the back-to-back champion Las Vegas Aces, the first team to win consecutive titles since the 2001-02 Sparks.

The other is the New York Liberty, who, after losing to the Aces 3-1 in the best-of-five Finals, likely will run it back next season with a nearly identical roster.

What do the two have in common other than stacked rosters?

Both are led by coaches who turned them into offensive juggernauts. So, what then is new Sky coach Teresa Weatherspoon’s plan for competing in a 12-team league in which two teams are so clearly ahead of the rest?

“I don’t play catch up to anybody,” Weatherspoon said Tuesday during her introductory news conference. “That won’t be our approach.”

The Sky have five players on protected contracts heading into the 2024 season, starting with 2021 Finals MVP and three-time All-Star Kahleah Copper, who was involved in the team’s search for a new coach.

Copper didn’t share specifics but told the Sun-Times that she had multiple conversations with Weatherspoon and was happy to be involved in the process. What Copper said she could feel from the very first conversation was the priority Weatherspoon placed on relationship-building.

“I’ve never had a coach that could really match my energy,” Copper said.

Copper and Weatherspoon’s similar energy levels certainly will play into the identity the coach is hoping to establish. In fact, the Sky’s success will be determined by Copper’s ability to bring the same fiery energy to the court that Weatherspoon had on display Tuesday.

On top of being a five-time All-Star, Weatherspoon was named defensive player of the year in the league’s first two seasons (1997-98). Her team, she said, will hang their hats on the defensive side of the ball. Weatherspoon already has players who can fulfill those expectations.

Beyond Copper, who has said in the past that making the all-defensive first team is a goal of hers, Elizabeth Williams and Dana Evans are both two of the Sky’s returning players on protected contracts.

Williams was named to the all-defensive second team this year, and Evans has proven that she can match up with the league’s top guards defensively.

When considering what she’ll be able to pull out of her players, Weatherspoon’s excitement was apparent as she referred once again to an intangible: energy.

“[Copper] can do so many things,” Weatherspoon said. “She’s so gifted in so many ways. As tough as she is and as good as she is, she could very well have her name spoken as an MVP candidate. And then Dana, I’ve watched her play. There is zero retreat in her defensively. She’s in you. That’s what I want.”

The Sky have a lot of questions to answer between now and the start of the season, beginning with who the team’s general manager will be.

From there, they will have to address who they’ll go after in free agency to be their starting point guard and how they plan to build out the rest of their roster with $951,752 in cap space to work with, according to herhoopstats.com. Weatherspoon said Tuesday that she hasn’t been left out of any conversations when asked what her role will be in constructing the 2024 roster.

When considering what holes need to be filled to produce a better season than the one that resulted in a first-round sweep by the Aces, Weatherspoon acknowledged they are still figuring that out.

“That’s going to come with us coming together and piecing the things together that are necessary,” Weatherspoon said. “I kind of keep that in-house at this moment because of the thorough research that’s needed from all of us.”

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