Changing teams is hard no matter what position you play. But it’s harder for a point guard. And harder still for a point guard joining a team whose main players have been playing together — and winning titles — for years.
You have to learn an offense, then run it. You have to know where everybody wants the ball and when. You have to know when to push the pace, when to pull it back.
And every decision has to come as quickly as a Danielle Robinson drive to the basket.
So it wasn’t easy and at times, it was frustrating.
“Of course,” Robinson said. “I didn’t think I was doing everything I needed to do. But these last two games, I think it’s getting better.”
Robinson was acquired by the Lynx in a pre-draft trade this spring. A former All-Star, she was a quick, athletic player the Lynx signed to replace Renee Montgomery, who had played on two title teams but signed with Atlanta as a free agent.
Being the backup point guard for the Lynx is a very important job. For the past few seasons coach Cheryl Reeve has been managing Lindsay Whalen’s minutes, which have dropped steadily the past four seasons. Through 11 games, Whalen (18.3) and Robinson (17.9) are essentially splitting the position.
The transition has not come without challenges.
“Sometimes you have to go through … well, failure is too strong a word. But you have to go through where it’s not quite working to get to where you want to go,” Reeve said after practice a day before Friday’s game at second-place Phoenix. “She had to learn nuances. Little things that take time to learn.
“It’s all about angles and delivery and timing. She’s a sponge. She listens to her teammates, to the coaches. She wants to be really dependable for the group she’s playing with.”
She has been much more so, of late.
After a 2-5 start that included a four-game losing streak, the Lynx (5-6) have won three of four and two consecutive as they look to reach .500 for the second time this season in Phoenix. The past two games Robinson has scored 19 points, hit 13 of 13 free throws, dished out 12 assists and been a combined plus-23. The aggressiveness the Lynx wanted is showing. She’s getting to the free throw line more. But, more importantly, she’s starting to mesh with her teammates.
“She’s understanding the pace we need,” Maya Moore said. “When to push it, when to settle it down. We have one of the best play-callers ever in [Whalen], and she’s learning from her.”
She’s protecting the ball, too, with just two turnovers in the past two home games against New York and Dallas.
“It was a learning process,” Robinson said. “I knew I needed to provide a boost of energy, but I had to figure out the balance of when to go, when to give other people their shot. Right now I have a good feel. These last two games have been really good for us, for our rotations. I think, going forward, it will be good.”
Having won two games, the Lynx have started to find their offensive flow. But there is still work to be done on defense and on finishing games. Minnesota had big leads in both home wins against the Liberty and Wings, only to let their opponents challenge late.
But, more and more, they’re starting to play more cohesive basketball. And Robinson is one reason.
“She learns fast,” Reeve said. “Every day it’s film, it’s working with [assistant coach Walt Hopkins]. There is so much. But she’s grasping it.”