Sky coach James Wade voices displeasure with WNBA playoffs first-round format as Chicago prepares to defend title

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CHICAGO -- As the Chicago Sky prepared for the first round of the WNBA playoffs, and the start of their title defense under the league's new playoff format, coach and general manager James Wade said he was "not a real big fan" of the new structure of the first-round series.

The No. 2 seed Sky will host the No. 7 seed New York Liberty for the first two games of their first-round matchup, which begins Wednesday night, but the series will shift to New York for a potential decisive Game 3.

"We worked all year to have home-court advantage," Wade said after practice Tuesday. "If you have a bad game, then home-court advantage goes to the lower seed."

Since 2016, the WNBA's playoff format featured two byes for the top two seeds and single-elimination games for the first two rounds until a new format was agreed upon entering the 2022 season.

The semifinals and WNBA Finals remain best-of-five series following a 2-2-1 format.

The Sky and Liberty have two days off in between each game of this series, which Wade pointed out to dismiss travel concerns for such a short series.

"You always want the deciding game, if there's a Game 3, to be at the higher seed's home," he said. "I'm not a fan of it at all; I don't think any coaches are."

However, doing away with single-elimination playoff games was met with positive reviews when the league announced the postseason changes last fall.

"It's exciting news for our league," Connecticut Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said in November. "The coaches and GMs believed strongly that our professional league deserves to play each round in a series format."

Chicago is attempting to become the first team since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and '02 to win back-to-back WNBA championships.

The Sky appeared in the single-elimination round in three consecutive postseasons, and although they advanced and won the championship in 2021, they fell victim to the old format the two seasons prior with a first-round exit in 2020 and second-round loss in 2019.

Still, their leading scorer, Kahleah Copper, said she preferred to keep the win-or-go-home rounds.

"Personally, I like single-elimination," Copper said. "I feel like it's the playoffs, so you come to play. But here it is, it's two here and one away. I think that we take care of it here, so we don't have to worry about it."