A busy day of moves — at least one of the rather stunning variety — left the Lynx looking vastly different than it did after falling to 0-3 with a Tuesday loss in Indiana.
And it appears more moves might be coming.
Just two days after playing just seven minutes — and sitting out the second half — five-time All-Star forward and former Olympian Angel McCoughtry is gone. The Lynx announced Thursday afternoon they had agreed to a contract buyout with the 35-year-old guard, who was attempting a comeback from right knee injuries that had kept her out for two seasons.
But that wasn't all. Guard Odyssey Sims — who didn't play Tuesday because of a personal matter — was waived after the two sides agreed to a mutual separation. Then the Lynx released replacement players Nina Milic, Rennia Davis and Yvonne Turner.
The Lynx also signed replacement player Evina Westbrook, a rookie who played with Connecticut in the NCAA championship game at Target Center on April 3.
The Lynx hoped they had found a veteran replacement for Napheesa Collier — whose first child is due later this month — when they signed McCoughtry on Feb. 2. But that didn't work out. McCoughtry missed the season opener after having her knee injected. In two games since, she scored 12 points on 3-for-8 shooting with six rebounds and two assists in about 20 minutes of play.
In a news release, McCoughtry thanked the team. But she also may have indicated that she might not have felt 100%.
"Although the organization has been very patient with my injury and helping me heal my body, sometimes it's about what fits best for both parties,'' she said. "I believe in myself and I know I will be all the way back to perform at the highest level. To my fans, thanks for your support during this time.''
Sims' second stint with the team was a short one. Signed just before the opener, Sims scored 19 points with seven rebounds and seven assists in two games before missing Tuesday's game for personal reasons.
Turner appeared in three games with the Lynx, starting Tuesday. Milic also played in all three games. Davis was signed before Tuesday's game.
That leaves the Lynx with 10 players on its roster, including Westbrook. But several are unavailable. Kayla McBride is playing in Europe, but her team, Fenerbahce in Turkey, is one victory away from a championship; if the team wins Sunday, McBride could be back with the Lynx on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Forward Natalie Achonwa could miss three weeks with a strained hamstring, and center Damiris Dantas has yet to play because of a foot injury.
That means the Lynx currently have six healthy players, and more moves are coming. The releasing of the three replacement players was essentially a procedural move mandated by league rules. Expect the Lynx to re-sign Milic and Turner on Friday, along with perhaps a third replacement player.
Aerial Powers didn't like sitting on the bench watching the second half Tuesday. But she understood.
Powers is off to a difficult start. In three games, she has made nine of 39 shots overall (23.1%) and one of 10 three-point attempts. Against Indiana, Powers was 1-for-10, seeing just four-plus minutes of playing time in the second half.
"If someone isn't getting done — and I wasn't really getting it done — then let the other people play,'' she said. "I'm not a selfish player.''
After an 0-3 start to the season, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve spent Thursday's practice working on effort and pace. After it ended, Powers put up extra shots until she was the last player left on the court. To get that first win — the Lynx host Chicago on Saturday — the Lynx need Powers to shoot better and turn the ball over less. To Reeve, if Powers works on the process, on what the team is trying to do, the shots will fall.
In her seventh season, Powers has a history of slow starts, which Reeve pointed to right away. In her career Powers has shot 30.2 % overall in May, just 7.4% on three-pointers. But those numbers generally rise during the season. It's a matter of speeding up that process.
It has been frustrating for her.
"I look at myself as one of the best shooting guards," she said, "and I'm not playing like that on the offensive end. So I have to do a better job.''
After Tuesday's loss, Reeve talked about the need for a third player to join center Sylvia Fowles and power forward Jessica Shepard in a "big three.'' Powers, at this point, would seem the best candidate. It only makes it tougher considering Powers showed up for training camp in excellent condition.
"Honestly, I'm really surprised in my efforts on offense,'' she said. "I'm surprised that I'm shooting this poorly. I just have to step it up, period.''
Back in Minneapolis
The last time Westbrook was in Minneapolis, she was starting for a Connecticut team that reached the NCAA championship game against eventual champion South Carolina at Target Center on April 3.
Saturday she'll be in a Lynx uniform about to make her WNBA debut.
"I'm glad for the opportunity,'' she said. "Glad to be here.''
A versatile guard who can defend bigger guards, Westbrook was the 21st overall pick in the 2022 draft, taken by Seattle. After being waived, she decided to play 3-on-3 basketball for Team USA. She had just flown from her Oregon home to Massachusetts when she heard the Lynx were interested.