Ever since Odyssey Sims entered the WNBA bubble at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve has been doing a balancing act.
She wants to play Sims. A lot. Sims is a 2019 All-Star who can get into the paint, create, find open shooters. But Reeve also has to be careful. Sims is just months removed from giving birth to a son in early April. She rejoined the team in early August, made her debut Aug. 13. She is not back, physically, to where she was last year. After Friday’s victory over Atlanta Reeve talked about how trainer Chuck Barta is in her ear, warning her not to play Sims too much.
But, now, that balance is tipping in Sims’ favor.
“Before [Sims] was subbing for Crystal,” Reeve said, referring to point guard Crystal Dangerfield. “But we moved her to the two. We tightened up the rotation a little bit, made Odyssey more a part of it.”
The results were dramatic.
In a season-high 26 minutes, Sims came off the bench to score 17 points with nine assists and seven rebounds. She played most of those minutes with Dangerfield, who scored 23 points.
Sims became the first bench player in league history to have a stat line of at least 17 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
They were on the court together for almost all of the 20-4 second-quarter run — one that began and ended with three-pointers from Dangerfield, the second off a Sims assist — that put the Lynx ahead for good.
“It’s the Odyssey that we know,” Reeve said. “Not only her scoring, her assists. She rebounded the ball today, darn near a triple-double.”
The 10-4 Lynx are one of the surprises of the WNBA season. They are in fourth place despite playing a significant portion of the season without center Sylvia Fowles (calf injury).
The Lynx are 8-1 vs. teams that currently have a losing record, the only loss last Sunday to Atlanta. But they are 2-3 vs. winning teams, with victories over Phoenix — Sunday’s opponent — and Chicago and losses to Seattle, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The next leg of their season is a challenge. After playing the Mercury, they take on Los Angeles on Monday in a makeup of a postponed game. Then they get rematches with Chicago and Seattle in the coming week.
The good news is that Sims is getting closer to her 2019 form.
“It felt great to be out there,” Sims said. “Just doing what Cheryl asks. She wants me to get to the rim, she wants me to create for my teammates. I get a lot of attention in the pick and rolls, just because I draw people.”
Reeve said she intends to play Sims and Dangerfield together a lot going forward. It’s not a new look; Sims started with point guard Danielle Robinson last year. The difference is Dangerfield is a better outside shooter. Both of them can get into the paint and both can shoot from deep.
“You can see the value of it,” Reeve said. “You can do different things. Maybe we try to run a play and Crystal is covered. Odyssey can still be a playmaker. I like that Crystal can shoot it and Odyssey can penetrate. I think we get the floor spaces. Yeah, you should absolutely expect to see those two on the floor together.”
It’s a small sample size. Dangerfield and Sims have played only 32 minutes together on the floor this season. But they have a 108.8 offensive rating and a 79.4 defensive rating in that time, a net of 29.4.
“They do a really good job of getting into the paint and collapsing defenses,” Napheesa Collier said. “It opens the floor for them to score, for others to score, and makes the defense work a lot harder.”