Shooting sessions with Lynx teammate Erin Thorn added a dimension to speedy Monica Wright's arsenal.
Monica Wright's brilliance, now, comes in a number of different ways.
The Lynx guard can blow past opponents like always, pulling up for a midrange jumper. But lately she is excelling just the same when finishing around the basket or shooting a three-pointer.
Her shooting efficiency has risen from 37.9 percent last year to 48.8 percent this season, helping her challenge for WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year.
But shine really comes in the polishing, which has quickly become one of Wright's favorite aspects of her game. A half-hour or so before practice or before any game -- home or away -- she and teammate Erin Thorn will hit the gym early, shooting, laughing and talking about their days, hearing only the steady pounding of a single ball and their own four feet.
"It's the quiet before the storm," Wright said of the early shooting session, where she resets her mind and focus on a new game.
The new ritual started on the first day of training camp this season -- the first time she and Thorn, whom Wright played against overseas, stepped into a gym together as teammates. At the end of 2011, coach Cheryl Reeve had challenged Wright, whose minutes had dropped off significantly from the previous season, to expand her game and adjust her driving approach.
Wright was on board immediately, impressing Reeve with the way she embraced the task in the WNBA offseason.
Wright is one of the fastest players in the WNBA. But now, teammate Lindsay Whalen pointed out, Wright has gotten to where she can change directions quickly. Most of all, Reeve said, she knows how to use her speed in bursts for effect, and finish smoothly.
"Slow, slow, slow -- boom, fast -- slow, fast," Reeve said. "She knows it's not just about the speed."
But Wright didn't stop expanding there. On the first day of training camp, she trailed Thorn down to the gym, "shyly," she said, where the veteran was going to shoot alone, as she's always done.
"I was like, 'Maybe I'll just go down and shoot hoops and maybe something will rub off on me,' " Wright said.
Thorn was welcoming that day, and it became a routine.
"With anything, if you have somebody by your side supporting you, it's always easier to have that motivation," Thorn said. "You don't want to be the one that's like, 'I don't want to do it today.' "
On the road, the pair will catch a taxi together to the arena ahead of the team bus, with Thorn acting as a sort of mentor, without ever making Wright feel like she's being taught.
"It's contagious," Wright said, laughing. "She pushes me because she makes every three. She rarely misses, and that helps me because when it's my turn, I want to make my shots and I don't want her to have to rebound. The ball's bouncing all over the place and I'm like, 'She didn't make me move anywhere.' "
But the practice is moving Wright's game to new heights and has helped reestablish her as a critical piece of a very talented team.
"It makes her very dangerous," Thorn said. "She's quick and athletic ... she has a midrange and she can obviously get to the bucket. And now that people have to respect that three-point shot she's developing, they can't just play her for that drive or play her for that pull-up."
|Miami - LP: M. Dunn||1||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter||3|
|Arizona - WP: T. Cahill||7||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: P. Strop||5|
|San Francisco - WP: J. Machi||12||FINAL|
|Colorado - LP: C. Bettis||10|
|Texas - WP: M. Perez||3||FINAL|
|Oakland - LP: S. Gray||0|
|Houston - LP: J. Fields||3||FINAL|
|Seattle - WP: F. Rodney||5|
|Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon||5||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - LP: C. Morton||2|
|LA Angels - LP: E. Frieri||4||FINAL|
|Washington - WP: D. Storen||5|
|Kansas City - LP: K. Herrera||3||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: B. Shaw||5|
|Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman||10||FINAL|
|Toronto - LP: T. Redmond||8|
|Chicago WSox - WP: A. Rienzo||6||FINAL|
|Detroit - LP: E. Reed||4|
|St. Louis - LP: M. Wacha||2||FINAL|
|NY Mets - WP: J. Niese||3|
|Minnesota||4||Bottom 9th Inning|
|NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda||1||FINAL|
|Boston - WP: J. Lackey||5|
|San Diego||2||Top 9th Inning|
|Philadelphia||0||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Portland||48||2nd Qtr 2:02|
|Anaheim||2||3rd Prd 1:04|
|St. Louis||0||2nd Prd 17:34|
|Red Bull New York||4|