How a week with more practice than games helps the Chicago Sky handle the uncontrollable details

The Chicago Sky's schedule has been pretty consistent for the past few weeks.

Practice early in the week, play a midweek game, get another practice in and then play a weekend game. Sometimes, the midweek practices were swapped out with a second game or a travel day.

This week, the Sky have two full days of practice before playing the Dallas Wings on Thursday morning. It's not only a change of pace, but it's important for a young team aiming to snap a four-game skid.

"It helps a lot to have time on the floor to be able to correct those things with movement, as in game movement, game-type of movement," Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon said. "We had a really good practice today with the things we need to work on, knowing who we are about to play, how difficult it is to defend them in the painted area."

The Sky are coming off a 91-83 loss to the Indiana Fever. It was a dismal finish for the Sky, but the Sky and Fever combined for a milestone.

The WNBA announced on Tuesday the Fever-Sky game was the "most-watched WNBA game on any network in 23 years." It peaked with 3 million viewers and averaged 2.252 million viewers. 

What will also help the Sky is having a few days away from that spotlight. The WNBA is seeing a massive rise in viewership this season, thanks to the influx of a rookie class that's as talented as they are popular. Angel Reese is the Sky's headliner in that regard, and is showing it with six-straight double-doubles and by leading the WNBA in offensive rebounding.

Plenty of sports commentary has focused on a handful of moments instead of an entire game.

"Everyone has their opinion," Weatherspoon said. "But, we have to go and play games. That's what we want to prepare for. But I can't speak for other people."

The other people Weatherspoon might be referring to are those who choose to frame the Sky based off a single play from last Sunday.

The dramatics surrounding the Sky's loss to the Fever on Sunday concerned Angel Reese's flagrant foul on Caitlin Clark. However, Weatherspoon and the players who have been in that situation know there were no ulterior motives.

Reese, who was going for the ball on the play, missed a block and accidentally hit Clark on the top of her head. Clark said after the game she knows it wasn't a play with ill intent, but that didn't slow down sports talk networks and radio. 

"No, it definitely wasn't with any ill intent," Sky forward Izzy Harrison said. "I would know. I was there. And for anybody that says otherwise, it's just not even about basketball at this point."

Those who were there described the moment as a "basketball play," and the experienced players who shared the court in the moment know it was just a moment that's part of the game.

"People don't talk about Angel's want for defense," Harrison said. "You play with Kim Mulkey and Kim Mulkey loves Pat Summit. We're a defensive-minded type of team, so I know Angel's mindset … So, just kind of like it is what it is. They upgrade it to a flagrant I, keep playing and move on."

Getting back to the practice court helped stoke that defensive mind. The Sky are third in the WNBA in their steals per game average and sixth in defensive rating, two impressive statistics considering how young the team's core is.

Having the chance to pinpoint multiple aspects to fix across practice is one thing; having the time to fix those problem spots with practice is another.

That's why the Sky are reveling in their start to this week. They'll have a chance to get over their hump through practice and not a baptism by fire midgame.

"I think if we buy into the defensive end, we'll be fine," Harrison said. "If we make that our identity – and that kind of was our identity coming into the season – if we're the underdogs, we're gritty, we're hard workers, if we buy into that, like we were shocking a whole lot of people at the beginning of the season, I think we can get right back to that. But we have to stay determined, kind of embrace that, that identity that was given."


How close are the Chicago Sky? Close, and that's the most frustrating part of the 4-game skid

"I'm not used to losing like this," Angel Reese said. The good news is the Sky are also close to figuring it out.