With the Minnesota Lynx back in action and returning to practice this week following the 2019 WNBA All-Star Break, the team got an update on Wednesday regarding two players looking to return to the team for the final 14 games of the regular season.
Following practice at The Courts at Mayo Clinic Square in Minneapolis on Wednesday, Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve provided the media with injury updates on veteran wing Seimone Augustus and forward Cecilia Zandalasini.
Augustus, who has yet to appear in a game this season, has been battling back from a knee injury that was suffered in training camp that required surgery early on in the 2019 campaign.
Reeve mentioned prior to the All-Star Break that this time of the year was when Minnesota was aiming and hoping to get Augustus back on the floor. On Wednesday, Reeve said the 14-year veteran was able to practice with the team and is close to returning to action.
“Seimone looked good. It was fun to have her back out there. She probably went through about half the practice with us. It was a little more controlled. … It was good for her,” Reeve said. “It was good to have her and good to have her voice out there on the floor with us. It was a good day in that regard.”
Reeve added that she doesn’t think we will see Augustus as soon as Saturday’s game in Indiana, but her return is inching closer.
“I don’t see (her playing Saturday),” Reeve said to the media. “I have not touched base with (Lynx athletic trainer) Chuck (Barta). I guess anything is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. … She’s pretty close to playing.”
When it comes to Zandalasini, who wrapped up playing in EuroBasket during a majority of the first half of the WNBA season, the forward has been trying to battle back from an ankle injury she suffered at the tail end of her time overseas.
Even though Zandalasini has been seen around the team and within the practice facility since coming back to Minnesota recently, Reeve said the organization made the decision that she will not be returning for the remainder of the year.
“She has not been able to make progress on the ankle injury and we just thought it was best not to put her in that situation,” Reeve said. “As banged up as we are, we couldn’t take another chance.”
Reeve and the Lynx hope that the rest will be good for Zandalasini, with the hopes of getting her fully healthy and for a full year in 2020.
“We’ll have a full season with her (next season). Then there will be no interruptions, there’s no Olympics for Italy,” she said. “She’ll play for her Turkish team and we’ll get her after that.”
The Rotation Moving Forward
With Augustus making her way back to the lineup soon and with Zandalasini officially out for the year, the Lynx are now able to fully prepare and plan for what their rotation will look like for the remainder of the regular season.
The start to the season has already been an interesting one when it comes to Minnesota’s rotation and moving pieces around within it.
From getting a large amount of new faces while dealing with a handful of early-season injuries, Reeve has been able to move a good amount of players around and see them perform in various roles.
With the eventual insertion of Augustus into the fold, we could see the veteran wing return to the team in more of a bench or second-unit role at least until she’s able to get her feet back underneath her.
That means the current starting lineup of Danielle Robinson, Odyssey Sims, Napheesa Collier, Damiris Dantas and Sylvia Fowles could very likely remain the same for at least the near future.
Whether Augustus eventually returns back into the starting lineup, that’s a decision that Reeve and the Lynx can make later on down the road. But for now, she could be a nice complimentary piece off the bench and will certainly help Minnesota with flexibility and a strong offensive presence.
“I suspect that we will have a little bit more limited minutes. This is not going to be a 28-minute player, so how do you best utilize the timing of when you want her and how do we achieve that?” Reeve said regarding Augustus. “We’re still working through that. Obviously who we have at the time when we put her out there, that will tell a lot.”
“I just know having her out there on offense will be good and what are the moments we can use her. I want her to play defense, too.”
Although it would have been nice to get a player like Zandalasini back and get her offensive firepower back within the second unit, the Lynx bench unit might just be fine moving forward without her.
Without Zandalasini and if you assume that Augustus will be inserted into the bench unit initially when she returns, that leaves the likes of Augustus, Lexie Brown, Stephanie Talbot, Asia Taylor and Temi Fagbenle among the second unit group. The team also announced the signing of forward Jillian Alleyne to a seven-day contract on Tuesday.
Brown and Zandalasini share some of the same characteristics as far as being able to hurt teams from beyond the arc and taking a game over offensively as a spark plug off the bench. She will likely continue to gain a larger role within the offense if her play of late continues.
Talbot and Zandalasini also share some of the same style of play in that they both can impact the game without strictly scoring, but also have the ability to turn things up offensively if needed.
Even with Zandalasini officially not making her return this season, Minnesota’s rotation still has plenty of potential for the rest of the year.
After a start to the season that began with a lot of question marks surrounding the Lynx rotation and how Reeve was going to distribute minutes while players battle back from injuries, Minnesota is heading out of the All-Star Break with more clarity on what it will look like moving forward.
And with the Lynx now 20 games into the 34-game regular season schedule, they are finally getting back to full strength as we move to the home stretch of the year.