Four days before the WNBA season began, the Lynx traded a second-round pick in next year’s draft to Phoenix for Stephanie Talbot.
Talbot came to Minnesota, found herself described as an outside shooter, tried to learn the Lynx offense … and waited.
For a while.
The 6-2 small forward from Australia was buried on the team’s depth chart. In the team’s first 11 games Talbot appeared in 10 of them, averaged 7.5 minutes when she did play and scored a total of 13 points.
But then Karima Christmas-Kelly was lost to season-ending knee surgery. And Damiris Dantas, the starting power forward, hurt her calf, prompting Napheesa Collier’s move from small to big forward. And there was an opportunity.
Since then Talbot, 25, has averaged 10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals in 28.2 minutes. She has made 16 of 39 three-point attempts. Even as Dantas has returned, Talbot’s play has ensured her time going forward.
“It’s what I know I can do,’’ Talbot said. “It’s how I play, back home. It’s how I finished the [WNBA] season last year in Phoenix. And it’s much easier when you do feel comfortable, when your teammates trust you.’’
The Lynx will need all she can bring going forward. At 10-9 and in eighth place after a loss in Las Vegas on Sunday, the Lynx host the high-scoring Washington Mystics in a Wednesday matinee before the All-Star break.
For Talbot it’s been quite an adjustment. Mercury coach, Australian Sandy Brondello is the coach of the Australian national team, which Talbot also plays for. Not only did she have to learn a new offense in a short amount of time, she had to adjust to a new coach.
“It’s my third year in America, but my first under an American coach,’’ she said.
The short version: “Cheryl’s a lot tougher,’’ Talbot said. “Yells a lot more, expects more. But she’s very fair. I think Sandy’s got that Aussie, laid-back personality.’’
Talbot has taken to it.
“She’s a fighter,’’ Reeve said. “She’s more than a shooter, which I think is important. We asked her to rebound more. She’s here, trying to find her way, all of a sudden she’s thrust into a role that became really important for the team. She helped us get through a difficult time with Damiris’ injury.’’
Actually Talbot was surprised when, upon arriving in Minnesota, she found herself being described as a shooter.
“Back in Phoenix I was a rebounder, I was a defender, I was a role player, someone who came in did the little things,’’ Talbot said. “I made the Australian national team for Rio because I was a good rebounder, a good defender. And I come here and people treat me like a shooter.’’
But they’ve come to appreciate her entire game.
“She can hit the corner three,’’ Reeve said. “If you’re too close to her she drives hard. She’s physical. She’s had extended minutes here, for her. It’s been good to see the growth.’’