Five minutes into Natasha Howard’s first workout with the Lynx last winter, coach Cheryl Reeve had to stop and pause.
The 6-2 Howard, acquired in an offseason trade with Indiana for Devereaux Peters, was something of an unknown quantity to Reeve and the rest of the Lynx staff. A brief glimpse of Howard and Reeve wanted to know more.
“I was only here partially — I had to catch a flight — but I remember looking at her and thinking ‘Holy Cow’,” Reeve said. “I texted her that I only saw five minutes, but I really enjoyed the five minutes that I saw. And that five minutes has proved to be the big picture. It wasn’t just a good day. It’s who she is.”
What Howard has become is a confident presence off the bench, able to spell forward Rebekkah Brunson with very little drop-off in production. In 13 games, Howard is averaging 7.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game while averaging about 14 minutes. She’s scored in double figures in three of her past five games and is shooting 65.5 percent from the field for the year, by far the best percentage on the team.
Howard had 12 points, hitting six of nine from the field, in Tuesday’s 72-69 victory over Los Angeles in a battle of previously unbeaten teams. Those two meet again Friday night at Target Center.
“[Howard has] exceeded my expectations, efficiency-wise,” Reeve said.
Offensive numbers like that off the bench jump out, but it’s been Howard’s intangibles that have won over Reeve and the rest of the Lynx. Long-limbed and broad-shouldered, the Florida State-product sprints everywhere she goes. And when she gets there, opponents take notice.
“She sprints the floor, she sprints into her ball screens. She’s always just there,” Reeve said emphatically. “And the angles of her screens, the way she comes out of screens. The rest of the team, they get confidence from her. She does things the rest of the team just loves.”
Which is saying a lot, considering that Howard has joined a team that had won three WNBA titles in five seasons, boasts four Olympians and brings lofty expectations to every game.
“I’m coming from a team that was good [Indiana] to a team like this one, with three championships in five years, it’s a blessing,” Howard said. “I look at that like ‘Wow, they want me.’ I feel really good being here and being a member of the Minnesota Lynx.”
Reeve said that perhaps the most impressive thing about Howard’s acclimation to the team has been how quickly she’s fit in.
“This is not an easy team to come into when you look at the level of success these guys have had,” Reeve said. “Tasha could have come in and said, ‘Four Olympians. Oh my goodness.’ But she didn’t. With Tasha, you never know when she’s excited and when she’s discouraged. She’s always the same and that temperament has been a big reason why she’s been able to slide right in.”
Just 13 games into her Lynx career and Howard is relaxed and already considered a key contributor to a team breaking records with every victory.
“I feel confident in myself and I think my teammates have confidence in me,” she said. “I feel like it’s home. Absolutely.”
Moore’s status uncertain
• Maya Moore, who sat out most of the fourth quarter on Tuesday after suffering a thigh bruise. Officially, the team says Moore is day-to-day. Her availability Friday will be a game-time decision.