ROSEMONT, IL (August 8, 2010) In a rare national television appearance (ESPN 2), the Chicago Sky did everything they needed to do to win for the first three quarters, and then that old Chicago disease came back like cancer out of remission.
Dressed in special pink uniforms to commemorate "Breast Health Awareness Week" in the WNBA, cancer seemed to be the most fitting metaphor for this team that has had more remissions and died more deaths than Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment.
And like Winger's character, Chicago seems doomed to die in the end.
Today's loss at home to the Minnesota Lynx, after leading by as many as 16 points, after leading at the end of the first three quarters, and after keeping their lead with major runs in each of the first three quarters, was unfortunately more typical of Chicago's season, and in fact, their history, than the few games they've managed to win by coming from behind.
The loss was the Sky's fifth consecutive defeat, starting at the end of a good run that had brought them back from a severe slump to a .500 record at 12-12. At that point, it looked as if perhaps Chicago had finally found a way to capitalize on opportunities, and to do what was necessary to win.
But because of the season they've had of streaks and ups and downs, there was no sense of complacency among the fans, and sure enough, as the good book says, "Beware when ye think ye stand, less ye fall."
Now that the Sky are at 12-17 and are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, it is time to forget the diagnostics and start working on the post-mortem.
I've observed a couple of autopsies in my previous career. It's not pretty. More like demolition than surgery. The pathologist comes in, not with a scalpel, but with a power saw. No need to be careful or sterile—just rip the corpse open and see what killed it.
While an autopsy would be revealing, I'm not sure it's necessary to determine the cause of death, however. I'd blame it on the coaching.
I like Steven Key. He's easy to talk to, very reporter-friendly, and he's passionate about the game and the team. His heart is in the right place, no question. But for whatever reason, he isn't able to keep the team focused and motivated for a full 40 minutes, and occasionally, another five or 10 minutes for overtime.
In fact, despite their being outscored 18-4 in the fourth quarter, the Sky were able to regain consciousness just in time to take today's game into overtime before succumbing. But the point is, they still succumbed.
No, they're not the most talented team in the WNBA, but Sylvia Fowles has been playing like a house on fire, especially in the second half of the season. She's unstoppable under the basket, even when double- or triple-teamed.
Rookie Epiphany Prince has added depth and punch on both ends of the court.
Tamera Young has played over her head, starting in place of the injured Shameka Christon.
Jia Perkins and Dominque Canty have demonstrated the ability to break a game wide open—Perkins with her distance shooting, Canty with her acrobatic drives to the basket.
Erin Thorn has come off the bench with three point accuracy approaching that of drone missiles at times.
Mistie Bass has added toughness under the basket on both ends since she's won a starting spot.
The Sky have had sizable leads in most of the games they've ended up losing this season. There's no excuse for that. It isn't the lack of talent. It isn't the lack of the team's ability to play team-ball. They've proven they can do it when they feel like it. So why haven't they felt like it more often? And why haven't they been able to sustain it for 40 minutes instead of 30, or instead of finally pulling it together in the last 10? Thinking back, it's hard to remember a single game this season that has been a complete 40 minute game for the team.
That falls in the lap of the coach. There's no other way to call it. Steven Key has failed to teach and motivate this club to be consistent, cohesive, focused, and together. The Sky could have easily won 10 games this season that they've lost. If they'd even won five more, they'd be in playoff position now, at 17-12 instead of 12-17.
Currently, Key is General Manager and Head Coach. Perhaps he should fire himself as coach and go out and find someone who has a proven record of bringing the best out of their players. Otherwise, the ownership needs to fire Key twice and replace him with one or two people who can turn this franchise around.
On a lighter note: The pink uniforms actually looked good. One of the WNBA franchises should adopt pink as their primary color. I'd recommend it for the NBA, too, but it would have to be the Lakers or the Celtics, or perhaps the new and improved Heat—otherwise, unfortunately, they'd be laughed off the court.