A young team that misses the playoffs usually does some soul-searching in the offseason prior to choosing which path to take: 1) tinker around the edges of the current lineup, hoping these tweaks can get you into the postseason, 2) rebuild entirely by cashing in on whatever veteran or valuable chips you may have and go young, looking for future, long-term success or 3) keep your strong, young core intact and add veteran players with proven playoff pedigrees to help show your squad what it takes to win. One look at the 2012 Chicago Sky roster reveals that Head Coach/General Manager Pokey Chatman and her staff opted for Door No. 3.
Any team in the league would love to have center Sylvia Fowles prowling the paint, and the 2011 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year enters her fifth WNBA campaign in peak form, as evidenced by her recent inclusion to the roster of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Basketball Team, scheduled to compete for a fifth-straight gold medal at the 2012 London Games this summer. Complementing Fowles is second-year guard Epiphanny Price who led a solid Sky supporting cast in 2011, averaging 13.6 points, 3.0 assists and a team-high 2.3 steals per game.
But the group of veteran WNBA Playoff performers that have joined the squad for 2012 are the big story in Chicago. Swin Cash, Ruth Riley, Ticha Penicheiro and Le'coe Willingham have won EIGHT WNBA championships between them and Sky Assistant Coach Jeff House thinks this can be a big plus for Chicago heading into 2012.
“When you look at our team last year, when you evaluate the season, you see that closing games out, especially on the road, finishing strong was something we had some problems with,” said House. “Adding players who have won multiple WNBA titles, who know what it takes to win in this league, was something we thought would be beneficial to this group. We anticipate they will be tremendous additions to our team moving forward.”
Past success among Cash, Riley, Penicheiro and Willingham cannot be denied. The question is, how much do they collectively have left in the tank and can they arrive in Chicago and incorporate their talents with the dominating Fowles and promising supporting cast remaining from last year?
Thus far in training camp, Riley has been setting hard picks and knocking down shots from the outside, a combination of skills lacking in the past. Cash has bonded with Fowles, her fellow 2012 Olympian, while Penicheiro and Willingham have impressed with their professionalism. If they can put it all together, a run at the playoffs may be on the horizon for the new look Sky.
After helping the Detroit Shock to the WNBA promised land, Cash took the brave step of moving on to Seattle, where established stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird ruled the roost.
The bold move paid off, however, as Cash's contributions helped drive the Storm to a WNBA crown. Can history repeat in Chicago?
"Swin is a pro's pro," House said. "We think she will come here and her off-the-court leadership will help. But her on-court contributions are just what this team needs."
USA Basketball agrees with House's assessment as they've tapped Cash for the drive for a fifth gold medal. After all her previous success, this may be Cash's biggest year ever.
– Jim Reilly, WNBA.com