Elena Delle Donne, who was drafted #2 overall by the Chicago Sky in April's WNBA draft, made an impressive preseason debut in the Sky's 87-67 win over the New York Liberty.
The Sky's win also spoiled the return of former Detroit "Bad Boy" Bill Laimbeer, who returned to the WNBA to become the head coach and general manager of the New York Liberty, replacing John Whisenant, who struggled with a .500 record in 2012.
Laimbeer previously won three WNBA championships as coach of the former Detroit Shock (2002-09.) He came to the Liberty after three years as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to ESPN New York, Laimbeer didn't waste any time putting his stamp on the Liberty, signing free agents Katie Smith and Cheryl Ford to join a team that also had former Detroit players Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton the last couple of years.
Delle Donne, out of the University of Delaware, led the Sky with 17 points, including two 3-pointers, three rebounds, and two assists. She also shot 100% from the free throw line.
“The speed of the game is a lot faster, but I’ve has so many practices under my belt now that I was used to that pace," said Delle Donne after the game. "Practice really prepared me for today. We practice extremely hard. We go fast. We really attack one another and make it hard on each other, so I was definitely prepared for today.”
New York’s height limited looks for 6'6 center Sylvia Fowles (eight points, seven rebounds), and the rest of the Sky’s front court, but the Sky guards found a groove and shot over 45% from the floor.
The team shot over 45% from the floor and nearly 77% from the free throw line. Sky guards Epiphanny Prince scored 13 points and Sharnee Zoll-Norman recorded seven assists.
“I thought a stat that was nice was the 26 assists. We shared the basketball. I thought we played off of Sylvia," observed Pokey Chatman, the Sky's Head Coach and General Manager. " When Sylvia rolls everybody’s running to her so that allows our shooters a lot of open looks.”
Looking on at Chicago State University were 1,250 elementary schoolers packed in the Jacoby Dickens Center to see the game as part of the Sky’s “Game Plan for Peace.” The game kicked off the team’s anti-violence initiative with CeaseFire Illinois and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.
Chicago native Cappie Pondexter led the New York Liberty with 14 points. Liberty guard/forward Alex Montgomery also had 14 points. , who are now 0-2 in the preseason.
The Sky will open their season on the road against the Phoenix Mercury on May 27, where Delle Donne and the Sky will match up with the Mercury's #1 draft pick, Brittany Griner, and veteran Diana Taurasi. The Sky open at home at Allstate Arena on May 31 against the Connecticut Sun.