Sky rookie Elena Delle Donne drawing a crowd in 89-85 win
BY KALYN KAHLER email@example.com July 11, 2013 10:19AM
FILE - In this May 13, 2012 file photo, Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum puts up a shot during the first half in Game 7 in their first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Denver Nuggets in Los Angeles. A person with knowledge of the negotiations says the Cleveland Cavaliers have offered free-agent center Andrew Bynum a two-year contract. The Cavs made the offer Monday night, July 8, 2013, a deal that includes a team option for the second year. The person who spoke to the Associated Press on Tuesday did so on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
It’s fitting that the Sky sealed a victory Wednesday against the Washington Mystics with a pair of free throws by rookie forward Elena Delle Donne.
Delle Donne, who has a .955 free-throw percentage, went to the line with 4.2 seconds left and made both to give the Sky an 89-85 victory. The team improved to 9-4 and moved 11/2 games behind the Atlanta Dream in the Eastern Conference.
Delle Donne helped draw a franchise-record crowd of 13,838 to Allstate Arena on Wednesday. Bill and Jan Weidaw traveled from Newark, Ohio, to watch Delle Donne play.
“To see all these kids come out to support a women’s professional basketball team and Elena is just the greatest. I’ve had goosebumps all day long,” said Jan, who played field hockey at Ohio University when Title IX was passed.
“We’re now Sky fans,” Bill said.
Barb Chambers and Wendee Warg traveled from Racine, Wis., to see Delle Donne play for the first time.
“We came to see Elena play. She’s like the Candace Parker for the Sky,” Chambers said.
With fans traveling from across the Midwest, it comes as no surprise that Delle Donne was the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game, the league announced July 2.
With 16,761 votes, Delle Donne led the Los Angeles Sparks’ Parker by more than 1,000 and the Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings by more than 2,000. Voting closes July 14.
Delle Donne would be the first rookie to lead the league in voting.
“It would be extremely humbling and awesome to think that I have that many fans already,” Delle Donne said. “It would be incredible and really touching.”
“It should surprise me because it would be the first time,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said, “but it’s probably the first time that a rookie has come into the situation where her team needed her.”
The Sky looks to have a good chance to earn its first playoff berth with the help of Delle Donne, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second consecutive week. She also was named Rookie of the Month for June.
“I smile at the accolade, but then I just move on to the next game because that’s just me and it’s my personality,” Delle Donne said. “It’s how I stay focused.”
Delle Donne, who ranks third in the league in scoring with 18.9 points per game, had 18 points Wednesday. She has scored in double digits in all 13 games.
Sylvia Fowles led the way with 26 points against the Mystics.