So how was Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve feeling as she made her way to the Xcel Energy Center floor for pre-game warmup tonight?
The Lynx are about an hour away from opening their 2017 regular season against the Chicago Sky. A veteran team is about to go for a fourth title in seven years. And their coach is feeling nostalgic.
“Lindsay [Whalen] and I, we each had the same feeling,’’ Reeve said. “But she is the one brought it up. … The league is in its 21st season. This is my 17th season, and I’ve just been feeling a little more nostalgic lately. And I shared with them some stories about the early part of my time in the WNBA. Just coming through, coming out to the court to warm up, I just said, ‘This is cool. We’re doing this again.’ ‘’
Turns out Reeve wasn’t the only one feeling that way. The Lynx have four players who have been around for more than half of the WNBA’s existence. And Whalen, about to start her 14th season, is one of them.
“She had the same feeling,’’ Reeve said. “She came to me and said, ‘We get to do this again. We get to play the game we love again.’ And so, that’s what I’m dealing with.’’
Here are some things I believe are key for the Lynx to have a successful 2017 season:
Minnesota’s 13-0 start to last season was the best in league history. And it set the tone. With so many other contending teams having to get used to new lineups – the L.A. Sparks, Phoenix and Washington being prime examples – perhaps familiarity will breed happiness here. Indeed, several teams are still waiting for their best players to get back from Europe. Not Minnesota. The Lynx are healthy. All five starters are back. Three of them – Maya Moore, Whalen and Seimone Augustus – took the winter off. The Lynx have added just one player to the top-nine rotation in Plenette Pierson. This would seem to be the recipe for a quick start, which will be very important in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
After practice this week, with the players taking extra shots, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve walked by Augustus and just said, “More threes, more threes, more threes.’’ It’s been the message from the start of camp. Last season the Lynx were seventh in the league in three-point percentage (33.7), but 11th out of 12 in threes attempted (11.9). Reeve wants both numbers to rise. In particular, she wants to see more threes taken by Whalen and Augustus, and more accurate three-point shooting from backup guards Jia Perkins and Renee Montgomery. Becoming a three-point threat would make getting to the basket easier for both Whalen and Augustus.
Perkins and Montgomery have looked good in the preseason. Pierson will add toughness to the second unit. Natasha Howard appears to be on the cusp of something great. On paper this could be the most reliable bench Reeve has had since she got here in 2010. If so, that means grinding on the starters less, and the team having more when the playoffs begin.