The Chicago Sky has never had a winning season in its seven years in the WNBA, and has finished 14-20 each of the past three seasons.
But now they're talking playoffs, even going deep into the playoffs.
The Sky held its annual Media Day May 9 in north suburban Deerfield with players, coaches and staff on handand all were optimistically talking about making the playoffs, finally.
"You always come into the season with high expectations, and to make the playoffs. With that said, and from the look of things, I think we have everything we need to make the playoffs," said center Sylvia Fowles, who was second on the Sky last season in scoring (16 points per game average).
"We're going to be as good as we want to be, and we look good on paper; we have what it takes. But paper doesn't matter. We have to have that dog, that fight in us," said forward Swin Cash, who was third on the team in scoring (10 points per game) last season. "We should be [in the playoffs] this season, no doubt about it."
The team's top scorer last season, Epiphanny Prince (18 points per game), is back for her fourth WNBA season, along with returners Courtney Vandersloot, Eshaya Murphy and Tamera Young, among others.
Plus, the team is optimistic rookie Elena Delle Donne, out of the University of Delaware, will have a huge impact on the team, and the league. She was the second pick overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft and was a two-time All-American who finished her college career with 3,039 points, which ranks fifth in NCAA women's basketball history.
"Elena is going to open things up for me; she will help me a lot," Fowles said. "My personal goal is to dominate, and I didn't do that much last year. I will help out however neededrebounding, scoring, doing whatever. I think this is going to be our year."
"[Delle Donne] is so talented. I'm so excited to see her develop into an All-Star and one of the greatest to ever play this game," Murphy said. "She definitely will complement Sylvia really well. ED is like the girl version of Kevin Durrant, KD, [of the Oklahoma City Thunder]. I'm so excited for this season. This has to be the year we make the playoffs, and I think we can go far in the playoffs. I think we can really make [team] history this season.
"As cliché as it sounds, the sky's the limit for this teamand am so excited to be a part of this team, to help however needed."
The Sky opens the season Monday night, May 27, at Phoenix. Chicago's home opener is Friday night, May 31, against Connecticut at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
The regular season runs through mid-September.
"We have some newcomers who can add an element [to the team] that we were missing [last season] from a skill set, plus, they can complement what we have [returning,]" said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. "The disappointment [of not making the playoffs ever] will be a driving, motivating force for these players. They are driven to make the playoffs."
Chatman said the team's offense is vastly improved over 2012. Her biggest worry is, naturally, injuries, especially with 34 regular-season games being played over 92 days.
"One of the biggest challenges will be, all of the changes in the Eastern Conference," she said, noting new coaches in Washington D.C., Connecticut and New York.
As for the 2013 breakout player, Chatman tagged Vandersloot, now in her third WNBA season and an Eastern Conference All-Star during her rookie season.
"We have the pieces to make the playoffs. We just have to stay healthy," said Ruth Riley, in her second season with the Sky and her 13th in the league. "The strength of this team is, we have some great playmakers. Elena is going to help a lot."
Tamera Young, a five-year WNBA veteran, added, "The team looks good. We have to get the chemistry down, and then can be as successful as we want to be, and we definitely can make the playoffs. The [team's overall] size is a strength, and we have many versatile players, able to play multiple positions. It's very frustrating not making the playoffs. This is my sixth season in the league and I've never been to the playoffs."
The Indiana Fever is the defending WNBA champion, featuring Finals MVP Tamika Catchings, a former Stevenson High School standout in north suburban Lincolnshire. The Fever comes to Chicago for games on Aug. 6 and Sept. 6.
"This could be a special team," said Allie Quigley, a newcomer to the Sky with has played four years in the league. She also played at DePaul and is a Joliet native.
"This is awesome to have this chance. I'd love to play on any WNBA team, but Chicago is just the icing on the cake. I came to Sky games as a fan while in college. Sitting in the stands [years ago as a fan,] I always thought it would be awesome to one day play for the Sky.
"This is a dream."
The team is hoping its 2013 dream will be fulfilled in the playoffs.