Sky forward Ruthy Hebard set to become a restricted free agent in new year

SEATTLE — More change awaits the Sky after the season and into 2024.

The last remaining pieces of the Sky’s 2021 championship roster are Kahleah Copper, Dana Evans and Ruthy Hebard. After former coach/general manager James Wade exercised the fourth-year option on Evans’ rookie-scale contract, she is the only one of the three under contract for 2024. But that doesn’t guarantee Evans will remain in Chicago; it just ensures the only way the Sky could lose her is in a trade.

Copper, meanwhile, has indicated she won’t be signing an extension before the deadline at the end of the regular season Sept. 10, leaving her future and Hebard’s as the biggest question marks.

Wade selected Hebard with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft. She since has developed behind All-Star bigs Cheyenne Parker and Candace Parker, plus others, such as Stefanie Dolson and Azura Stevens.

After averaging 15.9 minutes in her first two seasons, Hebard’s role took a hit in 2022 with the addition of Emma Meesseman to the roster. Since returning from maternity leave this season, Hebard is averaging 3.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 8.9 minutes.

Hebard is set to become a restricted free agent in the new year, giving the Sky the option to extend her a restricted qualifying offer, which would put negotiating restrictions on her. Hebard still would be able to negotiate with other teams, but the Sky would have the right of first refusal, which means they could match any contract offer Hebard receives.

If the Sky don’t extend her a restricted qualifying offer, Hebard will become an unrestricted free agent.

‘‘Obviously, I had a great reason to miss most of the season this year,’’ Hebard said. ‘‘But also I really wanted to prove myself to James, [interim coach/GM] Emre [Vatansever] and to the coaches. So for me, [the remaining schedule] is about playing hard and showing them what I can do. Hopefully, I’ll be in Chicago because I love Chicago.’’

At this point, Hebard hasn’t had any discussions with Vatansever or management about her future beyond this season. Sky CEO Adam Fox said all GM decisions are being handled collaboratively between ownership and upper management. The Sky have given no timeline for when they’d like to have a GM and coach hired for the 2024 season or a clear answer about whether they will be separating the roles.

Fox said a decision on how and if the Sky will restructure the role is ‘‘ongoing.’’

Making history

Storm star Jewell Loyd is leading the WNBA in scoring, averaging 24.4 points to go with 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists. If the Storm weren’t facing a potential last-place finish, Loyd likely would be under more serious consideration in for MVP.

Despite the Storm’s franchise-worst season, however, Loyd is making history. Her scoring average is the second-highest in league history for a season to Diana Taurasi’s 25.3 in 2006.

She’s also on pace to pass Taurasi for the most points in a season. In 2006, Taurasi scored 860 points in the regular season. Entering the game Sunday against the Sky, Loyd needed 20 points to become the third player to eclipse 800 in a season.

She finished with 19 on 5-for-18 shooting from the field and has five games left to break Taurasi’s record.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *