A recent Lynx practice ended with an extended, intense scrimmage. Starters vs. reserves. It was fast, loud, competitive. And a little surprising too, with the reserves winning rather easily.
So what happened?
“Monica Wright happened,” center Janel McCarville said afterward. “I mean, she was unstoppable, coast to coast. I don’t think anybody can keep her in front of them. She kind of picked us apart today.”
Think of the veteran-laden Lynx. Three Olympians in Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. McCarville, the newcomer. Rebekkah Brunson, powerful in the post.
But talk to the coaches and you get the idea that, in many ways, Wright could be one of the most important players on the team this season. The reasons? In no particular order: Her speed, which she has learned to harness; her strength, which sets her apart, and her versatility, which you will see a lot this season.
Candice Wiggins was traded away during the offseason, part of a three-team deal that brought McCarville here. That plus the team’s decision not to re-sign Erin Thorn has opened the door for big minutes for Wright, who will start the season as coach Cheryl Reeve’s main guard off the bench, both at point and off-guard. Wright also will play small forward at times when Reeve uses a smaller lineup with Moore at power forward.
That means Wright should see a big jump in minutes and opportunities over last season, when she averaged 8.6 points in 19-plus minutes per game.
“Every year I come in with the intent to make the team better, in any role coach wants me to fill,” Wright said.
But what if you’re asked to fill three roles? Reeve believes Wright is ready. As the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, Wright was forced into the starting lineup as a rookie due to injuries that slowed both Augustus and Wiggins. The past two years she has played mainly as a reserve, learning by both playing and watching. And there have been lessons learned.
Blend of talents
“You know, we used to tell her ‘slow down and be more under control,’ ” Augustus said. “Now it’s like, ‘Go and be you, Monnie.’ ”
She has learned when patience is a virtue and when to use her speed to get to the basket. She has made a case study of Whalen as a point guard when it comes to learning how to control the pace of the game. Put that together with her natural abilities?
“She can score a lot of points for us,” Moore said. “She’s strong, she’s quick. There is nobody like her on the team. With the ball in her hand, she’s so fast. And strong? She moves almost like a running back. She has learned to control it. That creates fouls. She will be one of our leaders in free throws.”
She will play both with the team’s reserves and starters.
“She has been in our minds, one of the most unique players in the league,” assistant coach Jim Petersen said. “There is nobody faster than her in the WNBA. She is a powerhouse, and she’s gotten so much more under control.”
So the Lynx believe Wright will do the WNBA what she’s been doing in practices during Lynx camp. “It comes with time,” Wright said, about the maturation of her game. “This is the best women’s league in the world. I just want to do what I do well, not go outside what I believe I can do. Just help the team win.”