A recent rash of injuries has forced the Lynx to re-examine their roster, both in the short term and for the rest of the season.
First, the injury update:
• Karima Christmas-Kelly will have another procedure on her right knee Tuesday and will be out for the rest of the season. Christmas-Kelly, a forward who signed as a free agent during the offseason, will have her second consecutive season truncated by knee surgery after her 2018 campaign was cut short by microfracture surgery on the knee.
• The calf injury that sidelined forward Damiris Dantas for Sunday’s loss at Dallas could keep her out for two or more weeks.
These are the latest blows to hit the Lynx, which has yet to have Seimone Augustus (knee surgery) play and has lost rookie forward Jessica Shepard to a torn knee ligament.
For a team that remained relatively healthy during its run to four WNBA titles, this is new territory.
“When Jessica went down [during the Lynx’s game with Los Angeles June 8], it was the first really serious injury, probably, since Candice Wiggins ruptured her Achilles’ tendon in 2010,” Lynx coach and GM Cheryl Reeve said. “That was one of the keys to our sustained success.”
And now? The Lynx are scrambling, midseason, to adapt.
The league has granted them a roster exemption for Christmas-Kelly, and they should get a second given the extraordinary string of injuries that left Reeve with only eight healthy players in Dallas. They hope to add players in time for Tuesday’s game vs. Atlanta at Target Center.
One of the roster exemptions will be taken with the signing of free-agent forward Asia Taylor, who last played for Indiana last season. A third-round draft pick by the Lynx out of Louisville in 2014, Taylor appeared in 22 games for Minnesota as a rookie, averaging 2.7 points. She has appeared in 64 games over four WNBA seasons, averaging 2.2 points and 1.6 rebounds.
That will help in the short term. But, down the road some decisions will have to be made. Two players that figure into the team’s long-term plans — forward/center Temi Fagbenle and forward Cecilia Zandalasini — are in Europe trying to help Great Britain and Italy, respectively, qualify for the 2020 Olympics. But they will be available to rejoin the Lynx soon.
Given the team’s lack of post players, Fagbenle — who is already on the team’s roster — is a lock to be back with the Lynx. Zandalasini’s return this season appears less certain.
Because of league rules, roster spots will have to be created to bring either back. That means waiving a player or two, and league rules will likely prevent the Lynx from creating those spots by waiving players signed thanks to the league’s roster exemptions.
“We’re taking inventory right now,” Reeve said. “We’re not sure what we’re going to do.”
The team has a number of wing players, which will make the Zandalasini decision difficult. Is it worth using up another year of team control for a player who would play a half season or less? The team could opt to wait until 2020, when Minnesota would have Zandalasini available for the entire season.