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Sky's Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot ponder critical offseason

Sky face uncertain offseason for multiple key players originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Sky could look different come the 2023 WNBA season.

The 2021 champions were eliminated from 2022 playoff contention in gutting fashion by the Connecticut Sun Thursday night, turning the focus to an offseason that will feature seismic decisions for a number of key players.

In Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman and Allie Quigley, four of the team's five starters will be unrestricted free agents this offseason. So, too, is super-sub Azura Stevens. Parker and Quigley, who each turned 36 this year, may even consider retirement.

Naturally, the future of the group was a frequent topic of conversation during exit interviews on Friday. And there was a common theme from each player asked about their eventual decisions:

We'll see.

"Probably in a couple of weeks," Quigley said when asked when she will begin to consider what is next for her. "Just take some time now to recover mentally, physically and just be with family. Try to be happy for a little while and then try to get to that in a couple weeks, I would say."

Added Meesseman, who signed a one-year contract with the team last offseason and has multiple overseas obligations upcoming: "I'm the kind of person and player that gives everything to the team I'm in at the moment. I haven't thought about the World Championship or (playing in) Turkey up until now. My next focus is the World Championship and after that it's Turkey. So I won't be thinking about next summer or when I have to decide yet. Because I don't think that's always fair to the team I'm in... If you call me in a couple months, maybe I'll have an answer."

Vandersloot, across two responses to reporters, stressed that she has yet to fully consider her next step, but that the Sky holds a special place in her heart.

"Of course, I'm a free agent," she said. "I'll have those conversations with my family and I'll have them with Chicago Sky, and, of course, Allie. And we'll make the best decision for us...

"Obviously, the Chicago Sky is really important to me. It's all I've ever known, and that's not something I take lightly. Anybody that knows me knows that loyalty is something that's so important to me, and the Chicago Sky has been loyal to me. And I have returned that favor. I'm going to make the decision that makes the most sense at the time and they will definitely be in the running. But I really don't know what's next. I really don't. It's too soon."

Parker also went into detail, saying she won't be able to make a firm decision until she begins preparations for next season. Then, she said, she will know if she is still capable of playing to the standard she holds herself to.

"I'm very calm, cool and collected, and calculated, when I make my decisions," Parker said. "I've always said it's never gonna be an emotional decision. It's gonna be one of those things where when I know I can't prepare to play, or I can't be at a certain level to play, I'll know in that moment. And I haven't even started thinking about next year or preparing for next year.

"When that happens I think I'll know and either I'll play or I won't." But at the same time I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be able to play as many years as I have in the league already, but also to be able to come to this franchise and play with the types of players I've been able to play with."

James Wade occupies a unique position as both the head coach and general manager of the team. He pointed to the Sky being in a similarly uncertain position last offseason, yet still putting together a contending club.

"Everybody looks at our roster and says, hey — they look at the teams that have free agents and say, 'Wow, what are they gonna do?'" Wade said. "We have money. Like, I look at it in a different light. I look at it as if, we have money and we can actually construct a great roster because we have available roster spots. And I think that's how you have to look at it.

"This way we get to put together a team and just take our time and try to make pieces match, somewhat like we did this past year."

All in all, the 2022 season was a successful one for Chicago. With a 26-10 record, they broke the franchise record for wins in a regular season, and came within 10 minutes of a second straight Finals berth.

Ultimately, they fell short of the championship standard set in 2021. But the run that this core has enjoyed for the last two seasons was undeniably thrilling and impactful.

What will the team look like that embarks on that same quest in 2023?

Stay tuned.

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