Janel McCarville will insist that little has changed. She has been comfortable with the Lynx offense pretty much from Day 1, she says. She was ready for more minutes long before Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was ready to play her more.
The numbers, though, suggest things have changed.
Over the past seven games — all Lynx victories — the 6-2 center has been shooting and scoring more while still distributing the ball. Her minutes and scoring are up, and it’s no coincidence the team found a groove, streaking to the All-Star Game break with a 14-3 record, best in the league.
“I’m pretty comfortable,” McCarville said this week, as the Lynx practiced for Friday’s game with San Antonio, which will open the second half of the season. “But I was comfortable in the beginning of the season, too. ‘’
When McCarville was acquired in an offseason deal, she hadn’t played in the WNBA in two seasons and had been relaxing at home after leaving her Turkish team early. It took a while for her to round into top shape once Lynx training camp started. That’s why Reeve had her on about a 20-minute-per-game limit the first 10 games.
Then a couple things happened. First, McCarville, putting in extra time, got back into basketball shape. And then Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen — a former Gophers teammate — pulled McCarville aside and told her to shoot more.
Whalen saw McCarville passing up shots, deferring to teammates Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson. It was understandable, Whalen said; she went through the same thing when she first came to the Lynx. Back then it was Reeve who told Whalen to shoot more. This time it was Whalen telling her friend the same thing.
“Janel and I are similar in that we like to get other people involved,” Whalen said. “At the same time, sometimes, if you’re not taking those shots you’re hurting your team. When you put it like that to a great teammate, they’re like, ‘OK, I want to help the team. I’m going to take that shot.’ ”
McCarville averaged fewer than 19 minutes per game over her first five games, scoring 2.8 points with 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. In the past seven games, she has averaged 25-plus minutes, 8.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
McCarville said part of that improvement was trying to do more while Augustus was missing 3½ games because of a sprained ankle.
“When Mone went down, it stepped my game up a little more,” McCarville said. “I can’t just let other teams focus on the other four players on the floor and leave me alone because I’m not shooting. I took it upon myself to take more open shots.’’
Interestingly, her decision to shoot more has not hurt her assist total.
“When she is fully immersed in the offense, it means we’re getting great touches on the low block,” Reeve said. “She’s getting face-up opportunities, which she is taking. But whether she scores or makes the behind-the-back pass to the corner, you can see she is engaged, that she has really arrived.”