WARR contributor Josh Hicks offers his thoughts on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA
Chicago has faced a few tough episodes in both their professional basketball franchises in recent times.
In the NBA, the Bulls’ recent week-long fiasco — headlined by drama queen Rajon Rondo, alpha dogs Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, and a non-confrontational diva in coach Fred Hoiberg — featured a lack of leadership on all levels, truly as uninspiring a chapter as there’s been in recent Bulls history.
This week another tough hit took place and unexpectedly it came from a team we don’t think much of at this point of the year — the Chicago Sky, who found themselves in the unfortunate position of having to dispense of their MVP, Elena Delle Donne, a player seen by most as the biggest talent in the WNBA.
Delle Donne, who led the Sky to their only appearance in the WNBA Finals in 2014, was traded from the Sky to the Washington Mystics. This could be the biggest trade in WNBA history, but only one side in this trade is giving up the arguable face of the entire league. It would make sense to really feel for the Sky right now but actually this move was something that the Sky needed.
Throughout her basketball career the 6-foot-5 Delaware native has made plain her priorities when it comes to life and basketball, listing life, then basketball in that order. Fufilling the definition of the motto “Family Comes First,” Delle Donne first surprised followers when she chose to transfer from almighty women’s college basketball power UConn to Delaware to stay closer to her family, especially for her older sister Lizzie, who suffers from cerebral palsy and blindness.
That continuing situation played a chief role in Delle Donne’s reasoning to demand a trade to the franchise in nearby Washington, something that cannot be disguised as a competitive move given the Mystics finished with the third worst record in the 12-team league in 2016.
Delle Donne claims there were other basketball reasons why she requested the trade, but being away from her family for long periods of time is something Delle Donne wanted to fix, her decision to risk her career trajectory so she can be by her family’s side is something honorable that should be recognized.
The sign-and-trade that resulted from Delle Donne’s frustration was something all three parties involved could benefit from. Most obviously, the Mystics finally got an elite player that can lead the team to the playoffs, and the most elite player in the league got her wishes in playing close to her home. As for the Sky? Well, the Sky can use this season to officially start a revamped era from start to finish under new head coach Amber Stocks.
You may not assume the Sky to be trending up after relieving winning coach Pookie Chapman of her head coaching duties and trading away both Sylvia Fowles and Delle Donne within a three year span, but the Sky still have a solid foundation with Chicago native Cappie Pondexter leading the charge.
Last season the team made it to the semifinals in a playoff run that had to occur without an injured Delle Donne, and with this trade, they’ve created for themselves a more balanced offense attack with the assistance of all-star Stefanie Dolson, who comes over from Washington. Along with the addition of Kahleah Cooper and this season’s second overall pick in the WNBA draft, the Sky are also sure to get younger prospects that under the veteran leadership of Pondexter can really develop to become the face of the franchise for years to come.
Delle Donne may be gone, but her legacy that she implemented in Chicago will never be forgotten. Without her, the Sky would not be considered an franchise of any worth, they would not have been in the playoffs the last four years and they’d still be one of the few WNBA franchises who’ve never made it to the league Finals (a breakthrough she’ll look to pull off again in Washington). To put it frankly, without Delle Donne, we likely wouldn’t have anything positive to say about the Sky franchise.
It will be different not seeing the former MVP, multi-time Olympian and three-time All-Star scoring 20 plus points a game in the sky blue and yellow jersey, for a while she made herself into the first name you think of when you think of professional women’s basketball in Chicago. Things change, though, and we should welcome the opportunity to have more names to think of when it comes to this burgeoning sport.
In the meanwhile, as winter creeps and the Bulls make us weep, we can always jump back in the archives and deepen our appreciation for having the best women’s player on the planet for the time we had her while wishing her the best due to all of the work she has done as she strives to pursue a better life for her family.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042