Fans should consider the Lynx’s announcing the signing of Italian forward Cecilia Zandalasini as something of a pre-emptive strike.
The team had a roster spot available, and word around the league was that Zandalasini — a free agent because she went undrafted a year ago —would get a lot of offseason interest from WNBA teams. So the Lynx, looking to the future, scooped Zandalasini up and will have her rights going forward.
“People knew about her,’’ Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said from Indianapolis Monday.
The 6-1 forward might not play a lot — the Lynx, fighting for the league’s top playoff seed, have three regular season games remaining. But being around the team will give her an idea what the WNBA is about and give the Lynx time to gauge her potential.
Reeve said two members of the organization pushed hard for Zandalasini — assistant coach James Wade, who has extensive European basketball ties, and Lindsay Whalen, who remembers watching Zandalasini in a U-19 tournament.
“It’s nice to have a potential future backup to Maya [Moore],’’ Reeve said. “Hopefully this isn’t a flash in the pan sort of thing. This is something we feel like is a way to add a good young player that the draft can’t produce because of our usual draft position. If she ends up being a good player, this could be a major coup.’’
At least relatively speaking, the 21-year-old is a late bloomer, which might explain her free agent status. Most recently she impressed while playing in the FIBA Eurobasket 2017, scoring 19 points a game while shooting 51 percent. She averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 36 games playing for Famila Schio in the Italian league, where she was briefly teammates with Lynx reserve Natasha Howard.
Because of salary cap concerns, the Lynx played most of the season with 11 players, one short of the limit. But having to pay just a pro-rated portion of a salary this late in the season made the deal possible.
“She has length, a good shot, and there is a toughness about her,’’ Reeve said.