It’s officially the Kahleah Copper era in Chicago.
With the departures of Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot in free agency, and Allie Quigley’s decision to sit out the season, Copper is the only remaining cornerstone from the 2021 title-winning team.
The 2021 Finals MVP is under contract through the 2023 season, after which she will become an unrestricted free agent.
Copper, who averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game for Chicago last season, serves as the building block for coach James Wade’s 2023 squad. Azurá Stevens signed with the Sparks, and Emma Meesseman reportedly is unlikely to play in the WNBA due to international commitments, leaving the Sky’s roster thin.
So the 28-year-old is in a new chapter of her career. One where she has to process the departures of her teammates while also becoming the face of the franchise.
“It’s definitely tough,” Copper told reporters Monday. “Lots of emotions. It was kind of a whirlwind, but I’m recovering.”
Since free agency began, the Sky have signed Courtney Williams, Isabelle Harrison and Elizabeth Williams, while also retaining Ruthy Hebard, Dana Evans and Julie Allemand. But Copper is certainly the team’s best and perhaps most experienced player.
**assistant GM**, but yea 😎 https://t.co/gnAlQJ9uGD— Kahleah Copper (@kahleahcopper) February 7, 2023
**assistant GM**, but yea 😎 https://t.co/gnAlQJ9uGD
Copper is embracing her new role.
“People are saying that it’s a new era, whatever you want to call it,” Copper told reporters Monday. “I’m ready to compete and really take this leadership to another level. Over my career and over the last couple of years, I think that my leadership has been great and I’ve had great leaders. … I’m ready to step into those shoes. It’s time and I’m prepared.”
The new era for Copper also marks a new era for the WNBA, as Parker joined the Aces and Vandersloot signed with the Liberty, two franchises that are being called superteams.
Las Vegas boasts an elite lineup with Parker, MVP A’ja Wilson, Finals MVP Chelsea Gray and All-Stars Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young. The Liberty also are set to be a major title contender with former MVPs in Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, an established guard in Vandersloot and rising stars in Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu.
The Sky are in a pivotal season that could be considered a rebuild. A path to the title is hard to envision with the Aces and Liberty standing in the way, but Copper is confident in the team being built around her.
“We’re just going to wait for the season, right?” she said. “Every year, the media and everybody on Twitter who don’t play basketball, everybody’s got something to say. They never believe in you until you win.”