With the music turned up loud — a new twist added by coach Cheryl Reeve — and rookie Jessica Shepard watching from the sidelines, the Lynx got back to work Monday.
There was a lot to do.
Most important is figuring out how to move forward without Shepard, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee late in Saturday’s loss to Los Angeles.
For now, that means rookie Napheesa Collier, who had forged such a strong start to her WNBA career playing at small forward, is moving back to power forward, where she played at Connecticut. And that means some other players will see their roles change, too.
But the biggest burden will be on Collier.
“We have to,” Reeve said. “She didn’t catch on right away. She thought it was just an occasional sub at the four. No. You’re the third post. You have to get in there. She has a lot to learn.”
For Collier, she will likely get many of the same opportunities and shots at the four that she got at the three. At least initially, her biggest adjustment will be on the defensive side. Not only will she be playing against bigger and stronger competition, she has to relearn the Lynx defensive protocols when it comes to defending the pick and roll.
“I like the three,” said Collier, who averaged 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists through the Lynx’s first six games. “I like the position. Now I’m going back to what I did in college, and I’m trying to adjust as quickly as I can.”
With Karima Christmas-Kelly slated to play small forward, the change could mean Collier — who started the first six games — could come off the bench behind Damiris Dantas.
Meanwhile, Reeve said other players will have to do more. Stephanie Talbot could see increased minutes at the three, and Shao Ting could get some minutes.
A long process
Reeve said a date has not been set for Shepard’s surgery; her knee has to calm down a bit before it can be scheduled. But Reeve said Shepard’s previous injury — she tore the ACL in her left knee as a high school senior — should help her through the process in terms of knowing what to expect. Hurt in December of 2014, Shepard was able to return in time to be an all-conference performer as a college freshman.
“All you an do is provide all the support you can,” Reeve said. “And we have tremendous resources here. I know she’ll work hard, and we’ll use that time to improve her shot. So next time you see her, she should be a well-oiled machine.”
There was a lot of support for Shepard from around the league in the wake of the injury, with messages of support on Twitter and Shepard’s former college teammate, Arike Ogunbowale wearing Shepard’s name on her shoe in a game.
Stopping the turnovers
Taking blame for much of the problem, Reeve joked that she had figured out a way for her team to stop turning over the ball.
“I’ve been a bad coach offensively since the start of camp,” Reeve said. “I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so it was better offensively [Monday at practice.] … Wait till you see us next time. We’re going to shoot a shot before we turn it over.”
Reeve said she has adjusted the offense, in particular how and when the ball gets to center Sylvia Fowles on the inside. The aim is to cut down not only on turnovers, but on deflections. Meanwhile, Reeve also took blame for starting point guard Danielle Robinson’s short minutes in Saturday’s loss. The team also worked Monday on some things to help play to Robinson’s strengths. Reeve said she was too impatient with Robinson in recent games.
“I can’t coach anyone the way I coached Danielle in the last game,” Reeve said.