Seven will be special for the Chicago Skyat least that's the thought of head coach Pokey Chatman, the fourth head coach in the team's history, now in her second season.
Special means only one thing for this WNBA team: the playoffs, which would be a team-first.
"We're excited for this season. We're working to make sure the names on paper also look good on the court," Chatman said. We have experience, which helps on and off the court, [as well as] in the locker room and in [team] huddles, not just game situations."
Are the playoffs realistic this season?
Yes, without question, she said.
"It was realistic last year, but we didn't get it done," Chatman said. "I know that this year's players, especially those who were around last year too, are committed to the playoffs this season."
Chicago took its first step toward playoff action with a 69-57 win on the road in the season-opener May 19 against the Washington Mystics. Sylvia Fowles had 23 points and 12 rebounds in the season opener for both teams.
Chicago also won all four games against the Mystics last season.
"It was nice to start the season on the road with a win, to gut out the victory," Chatman said.
The Sky home opener was May 25and the regular season runs through September.
"This team needs to be in the playoffs; it's time," Chatman said. "The players are hungry for it; the organization is hungry for it; the fans are hungry for it. It's not going to be easy, and never is, but it's definitely our focus.
"I think we've added quality depth this season. With the short schedule34 games [played] over 90 daysyou can easily be a free throw or a sprained ankle away from putting yourself in a tough situation with regard to the roster [size.]
"So, we have quality depth and versatile players who can play multiple positions."
The Sky, though, revolves around Sylvia Fowles, the team's center and the 2011 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.
"Things run through Sylvia, around Sylvia, and you play off of Sylvia," Chatman said. "What I think makes Sylvia special is, she really runs the floor."
Now in her fifth WNBA season, all for the Sky, Fowles averages 16 points and 9 rebounds per game.
The Sky also features Epiphanny Prince, Swin Cash and Tamera Young, among others.
"We were fortunate to get several key players via trade, and also have Ruth Riley and others choose to come here [as free agents]. It's only going to help our younger players," Chatman said. "We've been focusing on [our defense], while the offense works out any early-season kinks."
Riley, in her 12th WNBA season, has been to the playoffs 10 times. "Her basketball IQ and veteran leadership abilities will be key," Chatman said. "She often does things that don't end up on the scoresheet, but are keys to victories."
Eshaya Murphy, in her sixth WNBA season, "made an immediate impact last season when she joined the Sky," Chatman said.
So who's the obstacle this season?
"Everyone in the East," Chatman joked.
The favorite has to be defending WNBA champion Minnesota. "All of their parts are back, plus, they are experienced and hungry to protect that championship. They are playing well early," Chatman said.
Other challenges this season will come from Atlanta and Indiana, plus Connecticut and New York.
The Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) and the Sky will hold a special Pride Game on Friday, June 1, when Chicago plays host to Washington.
"We have a diverse crowd that supports us, so it's nice that we're standing behind it," Chatman said.
The Sky also has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX all year. Title IX states that no person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
"It's great for us to acknowledge [Title IX;] I wish it was [recognized] every year, not just at memorable milestone [anniversaries] because we're a product of it," Chatman said. "Personally, I have a special situation [regarding Title IX], how it's impacted and affected so many women. I've personally witnessed the growth of sports thanks to Title IX, and also have been a product of itas a player, as an assistant coach, as a head coach, etc.
"Title IX definitely has been an integral part of my life, so, I wish we could embrace it every day, every year. It's wonderful. You cannot ask me enough questions about Title IX.
"The progress we've made, [thanks to Title IX] is great, though we still have far to go. I truly hope the younger generation understands and appreciates Title IX, and continues working for it."