It was a process, Odyssey Sims said, going from becoming a new mother to returning to basketball.
Sims gave birth to her son, Jaiden, in early April. In the coming weeks, even months, she would talk with Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, but she hadn’t really decided on coming back.
But in July, she and Reeve were talking. They talked about the team, about Sims’ baby. About a WNBA season put on hold by a pandemic. At some point in the conversation, Sims said:
I want to play.
“It wasn’t something I said in March, April, May,” Sims said while talking to the media Wednesday afternoon on a Zoom call. “It was kind of last minute.”
Sims made her way from Texas to Bradenton, Fla. She quarantined. She rejoined the team. She served her two-game suspension stemming from a drunken-driving arrest last June. And Thursday night, she will be available to play her first WNBA game of the season when the Lynx play the Las Vegas Aces at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“Just to be here, I’m excited to get the opportunity to play the game I love,” said Sims, an All-Star last season. “I was on the verge of possibly sitting out. … I’m here now. I love all my teammates. We have a very young group. But I’m excited to see what we can do this year.”
How much she will play, or how close she is to being in basketball shape, is unclear. Sims said she has been working regularly with a personal trainer for months. But coming back from childbirth is not easy.
“Every day that I worked out, every day I continued to work to get my body back, get my strength back and my muscles and everything, I said, ‘I can do this, I think I can,’ ” Sims said. “I told myself before I came it’s going to be difficult getting into game shape, but I told myself I can do it.”
She joins a team that, at 6-2, is tied with the Aces for second place in the WNBA more than a third the way through the condensed 22-game season. The Lynx’s record is impressive when considering who they’ve been missing.
Starting center Sylvia Fowles has missed two games because of a sore calf. Shenise Johnson, a starting guard on opening day, has missed the past four games with a hamstring injury. And Napheesa Collier, last year’s rookie of the year, is struggling to find her groove in year two.
But Sims has watched rookie point guard Crystal Dangerfield emerge as a go-to player, and the energy a young roster is showing.
“We look good,” Sims said. “We’re running a lot more, getting out in transition. That’s the style of play I like. And that’s what I’m excited for, to be able to run.”
Sims was acquired in an offseason trade before the 2019 season. A steal, it turns out. Sims came to the Lynx and averaged 14.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists while being named an All-Star for the first time in her sixth WNBA season.
Her return makes a deep group of guards — Dangerfield, Rachel Banham and Lexie Brown have all played well at times — even deeper. After Tuesday’s victory over Washington, Reeve said Dangerfield was one of the more banged-up players on the roster. “She’s hanging in there,” Reeve said. “But it’s a good time to get Odyssey back.”
It’s unclear how much Reeve plans to use Sims right away. But her ability to drive and kick the ball out should help get Collier more open looks on the perimeter while drawing extra defenders away from Fowles.
“She came back at the right time,” Fowles said. “I’m happy to have her back on the floor. I’m excited to see what she looks like. I can’t wait for it all to come together for us.”
It will be different. Sims talked months back about how becoming a mother changed her outlook.
“It’s not about me anymore,” she said Wednesday.” I’m doing everything for him. He’s brought me a lot of joy, more than I’ve ever had. And, just all around, it’s helped me enjoy life more. I never take anything for granted.”
Jaiden is back home in Texas, a separation that won’t be easy. But, being in the bubble, Sims said the season feels, somehow, historic. Something she can tell Jaiden about later. A once-in-a lifetime chance to play a season in the bubble, mixing basketball and issues of social justice.
On the court? Sims said she has worked on some things, but wouldn’t elaborate: “Tune in to see what I’ve added to my game.”