At first Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said it in jest, during a zoom conference call with her coaching staff. Look at you, she said, referring to Katie Smith, Plenette Pierson and Rebekkah Brunson. Ten WNBA championship rings between them. Smith is the fifth all-time scorer in the league, Brunson the WNBA’s top all-time rebounder.
This would make a pretty good practice squad, she joked.
Yeah, they said, and you could be the point guard.
And then Reeve went home and thought about it.
“Actually, I need them,” Reeve said. “And the next day, I told them that.”
So those three, plus assistant GM Clare Duwelius, can expect to get some court time as the Lynx prepare for the upcoming season. A development that has Smith vowing to do only half-court work. And Brunson?
“I have some conditioning to do,” she said.
Part of the WNBA’s plans to get the season going at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., next month includes all sorts of protections against infection during the coronavirus pandemic. That means quarantining before going into the “bubble” and staying there for the duration. Well, all WNBA teams are used to practicing against a group of men during the season. One big reason is the size of WNBA rosters, which are capped at 12. NBA teams can have up to 15 players on a roster, which gives a lot of flexibility when it comes to practicing.
With only 12 players, it’s difficult to get done what’s needed during practice without wearing players down. And that’s why Reeve has her staff and Duwelius dusting off their games.
(For the record, Reeve will not be playing any point guard.)
Reeve said she believes this will be an advantage the Lynx have. All four are still relatively young. Smith, 46, ended her WNBA career in 2013. Brunson and Pierson are both 38. Pierson’s last year was in 2017, when she helped the Lynx to their fourth WNBA title. Brunson played last in 2018. Duwelius, 31, ended her career as a guard at Division II Wayne State (Neb.) in 2012 as the program’s all-time leader in three-pointers made and was a first-team all-conference selection as a senior.
Not all WNBA teams have a staff with such relative youth and experience.
It’s a hands-on — and, perhaps in the case of Pierson and Brunson, elbows — approach that could work. “It’s really great,” Smith said. “They can see film, they can hear it. But now they can actually see and feel how it’s done. It’s perfect for us to be able to demonstrate what we’re looking for. A great teaching tool. And we don’t like to lose. We like to do things correctly. Some of them might have played with us and against us (in the WNBA). But the babies have no clue who Plenette is, who Rebecca is.”
When Mikiah Herbert Harrigan was taken with the sixth pick in the first round of the draft, Reeve praised her intensity, her commitment to defense. But she talked about how Pierson and Brunson could help Herbert Harrigan with rebounding.
Now they can do it up close and personal.
“It will be fun to let ’em know,” Brunson said. “To jab ‘em a little with an elbow, grab a few rebounds over ‘em, to humble them a little bit.”
What better way to make sure the veterans don’t get worn out and the kids get coached up?
“We’re up for the challenge,” Brunson said. “I think it will be something fun. That’s something this staff brings. We’re not that far removed from the game. We’ll be able to bring that aspect with us.”
For Brunson, there is an added bonus.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there, and not getting yelled at,” she said, taking a jab at Reeve. “I get the best of both worlds.”