Even though they know injuries are a part of the game, Karima Christmas-Kelly’s Lynx teammates and coach Cheryl Reeve couldn’t help but feel this was unfair.
An MRI showed Christmas-Kelly, the team’s top backup at small forward, ruptured her right Achilles’ tendon in the final minute of the first quarter of Tuesday’s loss to Seattle at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. For the third consecutive season, her season has been ended by an injury.
“It’s heartbreaking,” guard Rachel Banham said. “I mean, it’s just so sad. We feel for her so much.”
Christmas-Kelly jumped high to collect a pass, and appeared ready to put the ball on the floor to make a play when she collapsed to the floor. At first identified as an ankle injury, it proved much worse. Surgery is looming; Christmas-Kelly will consult a foot and ankle specialist as she considers her options.
Also, starting guard Lexie Brown hit her head while falling to the floor late in the game. She is in the concussion protocol and is questionable for Thursday’s game with Chicago.
For Christmas-Kelly, one of three Lynx captains, this is an all-too-familiar situation. While she was playing for Dallas in 2018, her season was ended after six games by microfracture surgery on her right knee. Signed as a free agent by the Lynx before the 2019 season, Christmas-Kelly ended her first season in Minnesota early to have another procedure on the knee after she had appeared in six games.
“If you’ve been around, you’ve seen how hard she has worked,” Reeve said. “This is not a great day for us.”
Now the Lynx have to plot a way forward without Christmas-Kelly. It won’t be easy. Reeve was finding minutes for her in a small lineup that had Napheesa Collier moving from small to power forward. Now Collier will play more small forward, with Reeve trying to find a reliable backup for Damiris Dantas at power forward.
It would appear rookie Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s development will have to be accelerated. The sixth overall pick in this spring’s draft, she didn’t play in the season-opening victory over Connecticut but made her WNBA debut Tuesday. She entered the game in the third quarter and played all 10 minutes in the fourth, finishing 0-for-4 with a rebound and a block.
“She figures to be part of the rotation,” Reeve said. “Along with Bridget Carleton.”
At guard, the team has options if Brown is out for a stretch. Banham’s minutes could increase, as could those of rookie point guard Crystal Dangerfield. As her conditioning improves, veteran Shenise Johnson’s minutes could rise.
And the team is expecting the arrival of Odyssey Sims soon. Sims, acquired before the 2019 season, was named an All-Star for the first time last year. A new mother, Sims gave birth to a son in early April.
But Sims would have to quarantine for a time upon her arrival in Florida. Then she would have to get up to speed with the team in practice — and the team would need to assess her conditioning — before she played in her first game. Reeve said it could take two weeks for her to get on the court.