Only four games have been played, so Cheryl Reeve is in no way ready to make any definitive statements.
Reeve, the Lynx coach, was waiting for her bags at the Twin Cities airport Thursday when she was asked about her team. Minnesota has gone 4-0 with a ferocity even she couldn’t have predicted. They have beaten Phoenix twice — ending a current 3-0 road trip with a victory there Wednesday — and recorded three victories against teams that won 20 or more games last season.
So Reeve was reminded about what associate head coach Jim Petersen had said recently. That this version of the Lynx could be the best one. Ever.
“There is no question that, on paper, talent-wise, this is the deepest team we’ve had,” Reeve said.
So is Petersen right? Does this Lynx team have the potential to be the most talented she has coached?
“Yes,” she said. “And we’ve had some great groups; you don’t win championships without having that. But here is what I think is going to make this group unique: The players who are reserve players will be more involved, more invested. I remember when we looked at the early schedule, we said, ‘We’d better be ready.’ When the ball tipped to start the season, this group was ready to go. I attribute that to the vibe on this team. Everybody has respect for each other.”
A difficult start to the season continues Friday when the Lynx host 2-1 Indiana in a rematch of last season’s WNBA Finals. After that Minnesota will travel to New York.
As Reeve knows from experience, the first time you play a team that beat you in the finals the year before is usually a pretty big deal. Minnesota won its third title in five seasons last fall, beating the Fever in five games.
Indiana is 2-1 and in second place in the Eastern Conference thanks to balance; six players are averaging in double figures in scoring — including former Lynx reserve Devereaux Peters — but none are scoring more than 13.3 points per game. In its past two games, both wins, the Fever had seven players score 10 or more points. Indiana is second in scoring (90) and third in shooting percentage (46.7).
But the Lynx are humming on offense, too. Third in scoring (88.8), the Lynx lead the league in shooting (48.2 percent) and are third in points allowed.
The key to the offense, so far, has been forward Maya Moore and center Sylvia Fowles. Moore leads the league in scoring (25) while shooting 55.6 percent overall, 47.1 percent on three-pointers. Fowles is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds.
“There is no question Sylvia’s presence inside has created options for the team we haven’t had,” Reeve said. “It’s leading for easier opportunities for people like Maya.”
But what is making this veteran-filled team look special to Reeve is how well it is working together. Jia Perkins and Renee Montgomery back up the guard positions with Janel McCarville a reserve at center and Natasha Howard at forward.
“It’s a group that I felt really good about during camp,” Reeve said. “Very low stress level. They’re veterans. Whatever you’re telling ’em, they’ve heard it before. They’re very quick to make whatever correction that needs to be made. It’s hard to describe the energy this group has, how much fun this trip was.”
And while the season has barely started, Reeve can see the potential this group has.
“It’s the respect everybody has for each other,” she said. “There is happiness for each other when we get minutes. Being able to play as deep as we play makes for a fun locker room, a fun bus on road trips.”