Sky learn­ing to adapt on fly

team has short win­dow to get in shape, de­velop chem­istry AS IT AD­JUSTS TO A DIF­FER­ENT EN­VI­RON­MENT

Chicago Sun-Times - - SKY BEAT - BY MADE­LINE KEN­NEY mken­ney@sun­times.com @mad­ken­ney

WNBA train­ing camps opened Fri­day — al­most three months af­ter they orig­i­nally were sched­uled to do so — at IMG Academy in Braden­ton, Florida, and it’s un­like any­thing any­one has ex­pe­ri­enced.

Daily COVID-19 test­ing and con­stant tem­per­a­ture checks are part of the new nor­mal. Also, masks must be worn if play­ers are any­where out­side their vil­las and ho­tel rooms or prac­tice.

“The whole thing is dif­fer­ent,” said Sky cen­ter Ste­fanie Dol­son, who also said play­ers are shut­tled to prac­tice via buses or golf carts. “The hard­est for me is the sched­ule of prac­tice and the fact you have to [co­or­di­nate] with 11 other teams . ... That’s def­i­nitely dif­fi­cult be­cause you could have a night prac­tice, then the next day you have a morn­ing prac­tice, but then you have three night prac­tices in a row.”

Dol­son said she is hop­ing that ca­ma­raderie and chem­istry will help the Sky adapt and make the most of this un­prece­dented sea­sonin-a-bub­ble.

“We are a re­ally tight-knit group,’’ she said. ‘‘We al­ways want to do ev­ery­thing to­gether, and the po­ten­tial of win­ning a cham­pi­onship this year is very high.”

With ev­ery­thing so dif­fer­ent, coach James Wade is try­ing to give play­ers some sem­blance of nor­malcy.

“We have a three-hour win­dow in the morn­ing and an hour-and-a-half win­dow in the evening, so we’re go­ing to try to keep some sim­i­lar­i­ties in what we did last year,” he said.

Still, Wade ac­knowl­edged that play­ers aren’t as ready to play this sea­son be­cause of the ex­tended break be­tween the over­seas and WNBA sea­sons.

“We have to fo­cus on con­di­tion as much as we’re fo­cus­ing on tac­ti­cal things,” he said.

“Nor­mally, you have play­ers com­ing out of their sea­sons and their legs are un­der them and they’ve only taken two, three, four days off . ... But now we have play­ers that have not played the game in the last four or five months, so we just have to make sure they’re healthy, their con­di­tion­ing is up to par and we’re not over­work­ing them try­ing to get them to a point where we think they can play.”

If all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, the league will tip off its 22-game sea­son July 25. The sched­ule hasn’t been fi­nal­ized, but it’s ex­pected to be re­leased in the next week.

The WNBA al­ready has had some hic­cups in the first few days of the bub­ble. Some play­ers re­ported far-from-ideal sit­u­a­tions and found bed­bugs in their sheets and a ro­dent trap in a laun­dry fa­cil­ity. Other play­ers shared on so­cial me­dia that their show­ers didn’t drain prop­erly, and the Sky’s Diamond DeShields on Wed­nes­day ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the league-pro­vided meal plan that served meat with each course, even though she spec­i­fied that she doesn’t eat meat.

“It’s some­thing they need to fix,” Wade said. “And so I think we have to hold them to that and they have to fix that, and I think they will. Of course, you’re not happy to hear that.”

The league and IMG worked quickly to ad­dress those is­sues.

De­spite DeShields’ food snafu, the Sky have been pleased with their sit­u­a­tion.

“Be­ing here, I know that this is some­thing that no one has ever done be­fore, so I can imag­ine how over­whelm­ing it can be for IMG,” said Dol­son, who raved about the cam­pus’ ameni­ties, which in­clude pools, a golf course, restau­rants and a track. “The whole sit­u­a­tion is a learn­ing process, so for us it’s been great so far.” ✶

AP

Sky cen­ter Ste­fanie Dol­son has had a tough time ad­just­ing to the prac­tice sched­ule at IMG Academy in Braden­ton, Fla.

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