The Lynx made it official Friday morning, announcing the signing of free agent forward Karima Christmas-Kelly.
“We are very excited to welcome Karima Christmas-Kelly and her husband, Austin, to the Minnesota Lynx family,’’ Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said via a release from the team. “Karima is known to be a fierce competitor who is also a tremendous teammate. These qualities, along with her versatility on the court, offensively and defensively, make her a valuable addition to the roster.’’
Christmas-Kelly, 29, is capable of playing both the small forward and shooting guard positions. A nine-year veteran, she was a member of the Indiana Fever team that beat the Lynx in the WNBA Finals in 2012.
Christmas-Kelly played high school basketball in Houston, four years in college at Duke and was a second-round draft choice by Washington (23rd overall). She played for both Washington and Tulsa in 2011. Traded to Indiana midway through the 2012 season, she was a part of the Fever’s title team.
The past three seasons she played for the Dallas Wings, but her 2018 season ended after six games when she had surgery in June to repair an osteochondral defect in her right knee. Christmas-Kelly has already returned to working out and is expected to be ready for training camp in early May.
The 6-foot Christmas-Kelly has started 143 of her 235 career games, starting all 106 the past four years, when she has averaged 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
“I’m excited for this new journey and fully trusting this organization with the next step in my career,’’ Christmas-Kelly said. “I’ve been welcomed with open arms and I really appreciate the ‘family’ feeling I got from the beginning of this process. I’m both thankful and hungry for the opportunity to play in a Minnesota Lynx jersey.”
She will wear uniform number 0.
The acquisition gives the Lynx a much-needed veteran to add to a roster that is evolving after eight years of relative stability and unquestioned success. It might be the first of several moves aimed at bolstering a changing roster.
Point guard Lindsay Whalen — part of all four Lynx WNBA championship teams — retired after last season. The future of Maya Moore, the team’s leading scorer in six of the past seven seasons, remains in doubt following reports that the forward was considering not playing in the upcoming season. Moore was the 2013 WNBA Finals MVP and the league MVP in 2014.
Power forward Rebekkah Brunson — the only player to own five WNBA title rings, four of them with the Lynx — is aiming to return. But persistent postconcussion symptoms indicate that is not a certainty.
That very well means Christmas-Kelly could find herself in the Lynx starting lineup for the 2019 opener against Chicago on May 25.
The Lynx will return center Sylvia Fowles — the MVP of both the 2017 season and the 2017 league Finals — who finished last season playing with a ruptured ulnar collateral ligament in her left elbow. She was recently cleared to resume basketball activities.
Seimone Augustus is expected back for a 14th season, and point guard Danielle Robinson — whose 2018 season was ended by an ankle injury that required surgery — should be back healthy for training camp, too.