As the 2024 WNBA Season Tips Off, What to Expect From the Chicago Sky This Year

Tuesday is the official start of the highly anticipated 2024 WNBA regular season, and Chicago basketball fans already have sky-high hopes.

The Chicago Sky looks different this year with brand new leadership and players on the roster including Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso.

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As for how far the team will get this season, Marquee Sports Network’s Karli Bell said it’s mostly up to head coach Teresa Weatherspoon.

“She is a former player and also has experience in player development in the NBA,” Bell said, “and that’s something that’s going to translate well.”

More eyes have been on women’s basketball in recent years with some comparing the buzz to the league’s 1996 inception. Most notably, this year marked the first time that more people tuned in to watch the NCAA women’s basketball final than the men’s.

So, is it the “Caitlin Clark effect?”

Bell doesn’t think so.

“Angel Reese is an actual national champion,” Bell said. “Kamilla Cardoso (is a) national champion. Angel Reese is also the most followed player in the WNBA, period. It’s more the Angel Reese effect than the Caitlin Clark effect.”

Clark is the Indiana Fever rookie that’s been on fans’ radar since her early days as a University of Iowa Hawkeye. There’s no doubt Clark has already been a huge boon to the WNBA and its teams, even before playing a game. Ticket sales have skyrocketed already, and not just for Indiana games. Three teams have moved their games to bigger arenas to accommodate Fever games.

Chicago might be next on that list as there’s a new petition to move the Sky v. Fever games from Wintrust Arena to the larger United Center to make room for more fans.

“We’re one of the few teams that don’t share ownerships, so that is a lot harder of a conversation to have,” said sports consultant Subria Whitaker, founder of Grow the Game. “It might be possible, but I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as other teams.”

This season marks another major shift and milestone — the way teams travel.

Teams will travel on charters instead of commercial flights this season, the league announced last week. The WNBA is still working on implementing the program and it may take a few weeks for every team to be flying charters. Previously, WNBA teams could only charter during the postseason and for regular-season games on back-to-back days requiring air travel.

Only two of the four teams that traveled for the opening night games used charter planes. The Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx took charters, while New York bused to Washington and Phoenix had a short commercial flight to Las Vegas.

“The Sky had to fly commercial, and so did everyone else,” said Cheryl Raye-Stout of WBEZ. “It sounds like this is still a work in progress.”

The league plans to fund charter flights at a cost of about $50 million over the next two years in a move that addresses years of player safety concerns. Travel has been a huge topic of discussion for years.

“It says to other players and teams, ‘Why are you taking care of this one player and this one team and not the rest of us?’” Raye-Stout said.

With new viewership and increased interest, there’s a question as to how and when the WNBA will ever be financially on par with its male counterpart.

“Just put the games on television,” said the Chicago Tribune’s Julia Poe. “They are breaking every single record that could possibly be set by the men in viewership, and I think that’s where the commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, has to come into those (TV) negotiations with a strong tact of saying, ‘Our product is as good, if not better in some areas, in terms of interest, in terms of time of year, and this is what we can do.’ That’s where all of this starts. If they want to be able to pay the players, they have to start out by being able to secure that money and that deal.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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