You’d think a nice, monthslong vacation would be great.
And it was, for a while. Rebekkah Brunson relaxed, started training, watched a few Timberwolves games.
But it didn’t take long for the winter to become her season of discontent. “It was long,” she said. “I am not used to it. I enjoyed it for a while. But then I wanted to get back into things.”
Brunson is, at least relatively speaking, the unsung hero of the Minnesota Lynx. Maya Moore gets points. Lindsay Whalen is the local hero. Seimone Augustus is the longest-tenured star.
Brunson, since coming here in 2010, has rebounded, defended in the post, gotten gritty.
And the last couple years she was gritting her teeth in pain while doing it.
A knee problem had been worsening over the years, the price paid for playing nearly year-round for more than a decade.
Last year, finally enough.
On the eve of training camp Brunson had surgery on her right knee to correct a degenerating ligament condition and was out until after the All-Star break. But even when she returned, she wasn’t herself, pushing herself to get through the final 11 regular-season games and the playoffs. Then she discovered she needed another procedure after the season ended.
Enough. Brunson decided to have the surgery, then rest over fall and winter rather than play in Europe.
“Right now I feel better than I did at any point last year,” Brunson said. “And that’s a good thing.”
More than you might imagine.
When Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve talks about what prevented her team from making its fourth consecutive trip to the WNBA Finals last season, two things stand out: the team’s defense overall and the ability to use that defense to set up the break.
Nowhere is Brunson more important. The team’s best post defender, Brunson can also move to the perimeter to deny passes; assistant coach Jim Petersen said at the team’s media day Thursday that one of the best things about the upcoming season is that he’ll be able to pick the other team’s best post player and, to use his words, “Sic Brunson on ’em.”
She is also one of the most efficient rebounders in the game.
In their title season of 2013, Lynx opponents shot 40.5 percent and scored 73.5 points per game. Last season those numbers grew to 42.3 percent and 77.2 points.
“With Rebekkah back at full strength, it gives us a very contagious energy with the way she approaches defense,” Reeve said.
The Lynx will need her. Reeve said Thursday that Asjha Jones — acquired after Janel McCarville’s decision not to play this summer — is still working her way back from a blood deficiency discovered in her pre-camp physical. The problem, which causes fatigue, has caused the Lynx to back off her minutes in practice. Reeve said Jones might not be ready to play by next Friday’s season opener.
The Lynx had planned on keeping five center/power forwards on the team’s 11-player roster anyway. Jones, Brunson and Damiris Dantas have three spots. Rookie Reshanda Gray has looked good. That means Amber Harris and Devereaux Peters are likely competing for one spot.
If Jones can’t play, Dantas would likely start at center in the opener, putting more responsibility on Brunson’s shoulders.
She spent the winter and spring getting ready. She could have played in Europe, she said, “but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do everything I could do to put myself in the best situation coming into camp here. I know we have big plans. There are things we want to accomplish, and I wanted to be in the best condition to do that.’’