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Toliver Helps Sky to Victory: "Sometimes as a Young Player All You Want is a Chance."

After hitting a free throw with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter to increase her career high scoring to 24, Chicago Sky rookie point guard Kristi Toliver stood at the free throw line with a huge grin.

It was hard to say what exactly she was grinning at because it looked like she was grinning in response to someone off camera.

So let me recklessly read into her grin a little: it had to be a relief to play so well after recording a DNP-CD in Los Angeles against the Sparks.

Toliver finished the game with a career-high 25 points, going 5-8 from the three point line, and played a key role in a huge 21-4 run that propelled the Sky to a 96-77 victory over the New York Liberty.

In a way, I suppose you could say it was a "boring" 25 points. As the commentators discussed entering the fourth quarter, a number of those shots were literally loose balls falling into her hands and her shooting almost indiscriminately over the outstretched arms of defenders.

But even in seeming like one of the most accidental 25 point performances the league has seen, her shot is just so beautiful. Her shot looks almost effortless and has an almost perfect arc before falling softly through the net. Dare I say she has one of the prettiest jump shots in the WNBA?

During the third quarter, as New York Liberty rookie post player Kia Vaughn was on a roll on her way to her own career-high 12 points, Mary Murphy said, "Sometimes as a young player all you want is a chance." And really, the statement seems to apply more directly Toliver than Vaughn, who has not had as many explosive performances during her rookie campaign.

It's hard not to wonder sometimes if Kristi Toliver has truly gotten a chance to have the rookie season people expected of her when she was drafted #3 in the 2009 WNBA draft. Of course there might be reasons for that which are beyond the reach of us outside observers.

But the strange thing is that aside from a turnover problem that's no longer any worse than her rookie point guard counterparts who are receiving a lot more playing time, Toliver has performed well in spurts when she enters the game. In fact, she has arguably outperformed teammates who take her time.

If the Sky had firmly secured a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference or at the very least shown consistent play this season, perhaps this would be a non-issue. However, as things stand now, it's difficult to make sense of the situation in Chicago.

Talent-wise, there's no reason Chicago should not be a playoff team. The fact that they're not should raise questions. If everyone who watches the team is perpetually wondering what the *bleep* are they doing?, then perhaps there's reason to believe things aren't quite right.

I would have remained silent on the Sky because...well...they defy explanation moreso than any team I've watched this season. It's not like the Sacramento Monarchs who are aging and injured or the Liberty who seem to be a poorly constructed and managed team. This team has too much talent to not be in a better position.

And Candace Dupree's comments to the media the other day don't exactly help assuage doubts

"I just feel like people have no motivation, Dupree said. "This is the first time in franchise history we could potentially make the playoffs and I don't feel like everybody plays like that every night. We've got to pick it up."

Doesn't that sound like a red flag that something really is not quite right with this team?