During Wednesday’s scrimmage with the Chinese national team, Lynx rookie Napheesa Collier had a little battle with one of her opponents. It wasn’t anything major — just a couple of elbows traded between competitors — but it caught the eye of veteran teammate Seimone Augustus.
“I was joking with Napheesa before I came in here,” Augustus said Thursday during the Lynx’s media day. “I was like, ‘OK, I haven’t seen that from Pheesa in practices.’ I just wanted to know that she had it in her to not back down.”
There will be plenty get-to-know-you moments this year for the Lynx, who have significantly remade their roster after almost a decade with a very similar core. Collier is far from the only new piece, but as the No. 6 overall pick out of UConn she figures to be among the biggest young contributors on this year’s team.
And as much as her new teammates are learning about her, Collier is learning even more about them — and about life in the WNBA. The Lynx have installed 20-plus offensive plays in addition to working on other nuances since camp opened last week. That much information trickled in at a much slower rate in college.
“Just in the first few days you can see their heads spinning,” Augustus said of Collier and other Lynx newcomers.
Is that true? Collier nodded her head vigorously, but added: “You have no choice but to take it in as fast as you can and get adjusted as quickly as possible.”
Part of the adjustment will be in style of play. The 6-2 Collier played a lot in the post at UConn, where she averaged 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds as a senior All-America last year. She finished her career with more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. Only four other players in the storied history of the Huskies program have done that: Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Breanna Stewart and Rebecca Lobo.
With the Lynx, Collier is being asked to play more on the perimeter as a small forward — where Moore, who is taking the year off, typically played. Along with that, she’s working to rebuild a shooting stroke that diminished as her college career advanced. She shot 43.1% from three-point range as a sophomore but just 28.3% as a senior.
Part of the problem a season ago, Collier said, was a hitch that developed at the top of her shot. With the Lynx early in practice, she’s also been working on getting her left hand away from the front of the ball and lower in her setup.
Like a lot of things with the Lynx this year, that process can best be described as a work in progress.
“If you look at the pictures, it’s not really coming along at all,” Collier said. “My hand hasn’t changed. But it’s really hard to change a shot, and it’s something we’ll work on a lot more heavily after the season is over.”
Veterans such as Augustus and guard Danielle Robinson have been quick to remind Collier that the team has plenty of scorers and that she doesn’t need to be superhuman to fit in and contribute.
“She was ‘that girl’ and had to do everything [in college]. She doesn’t have to do as much now,” Robinson said. “That’s been the theme of the camp for us. … Making it easy for them, try not to run all the plays at once.”
To that end, Collier’s energy has impressed Lynx coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve.
“Every time you see [Collier] play it’s the same thing,” Reeve said. “Her activity when she plays — defensively, get a rebound, run, how she plays in the half-court offense — she really moves.”
And Collier seems to be a pretty quick learner. She already has Augustus pretty well figured out, even as Augustus is learning about Collier.
“Seimone is definitely goofy. She’s really, really funny,” Collier said. “… I’m kind of goofy, too. I like to smile. Mone is a great person because she makes me smile all the time.”