The Lynx are 10-7 without four star players who were with them last season: Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus.
Instead of mouthing the usual “rebuilding” mantra spouted by every talent-strapped general manager in the history of sport, Cheryl Reeve decided to try to win in 2019.
She may have made this decision to give Moore reason to eventually return to the team. Or to keep intact perhaps the most passionate fan base in the WNBA.
Or because she’s the coach.
She did well in the draft, landing Napheesa Collier with the sixth pick and taking Jessica Shepard at No. 16. But Collier isn’t ready to be a first option on offense, and Shepard has been lost for the season because of a knee injury.
So how are the Lynx, after a 75-62 victory over Phoenix on Sunday at Target Center, within 1 ½ games of the league’s best record?
Odyssey Sims is the first of many correct answers.
When the Los Angeles Sparks were making over their roster this spring, they offered Sims to the Lynx. Reeve gave them guard Alexis Jones.
Sims leads the Lynx in scoring and assists. Jones is averaging 4.7 points, 1.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 0.1 steals in 15 minutes per game.
Reeve can sleep well at night knowing that our country rarely severely prosecutes the perpetrators of white-collar crimes.
Sims and center Sylvia Fowles are the Lynx players most likely to be named to the All-Star team when reserves are announced Monday. Fowles is a proven star who said she isn’t all that interested in the All-Star Game at this point in her career. For Sims, the honor would provide a shorthand memo to WNBA fans that the Sparks didn’t know what they had in her.
She is physically tough. She is capable of breaking down a defense by getting into the paint and using her body to shield the ball while she makes a decision. Her career-best 5.6 assists per game is the result of her finding teammates when the defense collapses.
When the Lynx needed a basket to win in Chicago last week, Reeve drew up a play intended to go for Fowles. Instead, the ball wound up in the hands of Sims, the second option. She pump-faked and hit the game-winner.
On June 26, news broke that she had been arrested on a DWI charge. The next day, she apologized to her teammates at practice. She has been the Lynx’s pivotal player since.
“This is a very good situation for me,” Sims said. “I’ve loved everything here from Day 1 until now. It’s a great organization, with a winning history.”
When she recorded eight assists in three straight games, from June 30 to July 6, she became the first Lynx player to accomplish that since Whalen — in 2012.
“She’s one of our go-to players,” Reeve said. “It’s her and Syl that make our offense go. As I told her, she’s so hard to play against, both ends of the floor. She gets into small spaces and is very comfortable with people around her, and she makes us go. She really makes us go when she comes off that ball screen and creates opportunities for other players to be open.”
Said Fowles: “She’s great on the ball, she’s great at getting into the paint and distributing. She’s a breath of fresh air for us.”
“She’s a really special player and she’s showcasing that this year,” said fellow guard Danielle Robinson. “Everyone knows that she’s hard to play against, but this year she’s really changing the way teams play her and play us. It’s been fun to get it to her in transition and see what she does.”
Sunday, Sims wasn’t at her most efficient, yet produced a team-high 15 points, plus five rebounds and three assists. Her plus-9 was the best of the Lynx starters.
Sims would relish an All-Star bid, and Reeve wants to see her rewarded.
“Yes, of course,” Sims said. “That would mean my hard work paid off.”