The Minnesota Lynx enter the second week of the 2019 WNBA regular season as the last remaining undefeated team in the league.
Minnesota completed the opening week of its schedule going 3-0 after taking down the Chicago Sky and Seattle Storm at home in Minneapolis, before beating the Dallas Wings in the first road game of the season on Saturday.
Considering the Lynx have a handful of new players on its roster from a year ago, something that has been well-documented and talked about a decent amount so far this season, it is somewhat surprising to see them off to a strong start to the regular season schedule.
Even if we are just a week into the summer.
One of the reasons behind Minnesota’s success up to this point is its dominant display on defense through three games. You can check out my latest feature on that below:
With the Lynx continuing on in the second week of the regular season against some tough opponents such as the Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks — both games at home, by the way — they will be put to the test and we will get a good idea of exactly where this team lines up in the league following this upcoming week.
Let’s dive into some questions you submitted during the opening week of the regular season:
Who was the X-factor in their previous game?
— Erik Klingner (@ErikKlingner) May 31, 2019
Minnesota took down the Dallas Wings 70-67 on Saturday night in its first road game of the year, and really there were a few different players that were x-factors in the game for the Lynx to lead them to victory.
Minnesota, which led big early on and let Dallas back into the game late before ultimately coming away with the victory, was led by Damiris Dantas and Sylvia Fowles in the post.
Dantas had her best performance of the year in the game, tallying a team-high 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 34 minutes. She stepped up big at a few different points throughout the game, which was good to see as she continues to settle in Minnesota.
Fowles continued to be a double-double machine, finishing behind Dantas with 19 points and 12 rebounds. This season more than ever, the Lynx are going to need “MVP Fowles” to appear early and often if they want to continue to stay atop the WNBA standings.
For the most part, there have been different players and different names stepping up in each of the three wins up to this point for the Lynx, which is a good thing to see.
In the season opener against Chicago, it was rookie Napheesa Collier, who went off for a season-best 27 points in her WNBA debut. Since that point, she has cooled off to some extent, which is expected from a rookie, but has still been solid for Minnesota through the first week of action.
In the second game of the year against the defending champion Seattle Storm, Odyssey Sims was a notable x-factor in the game while stepping up to help the Lynx cruise to a victory at home.
In Saturday’s win against Dallas, Dantas and Fowles were able to step up and come up big throughout the game for Minnesota to lead it to its first road win of the summer.
Overall, there have been numerous players that have stepped up at different times in the young season. That trend and even spread of top performers is something that I think we will see a lot more of this season compared to what Lynx fans have been accustomed to in the past.
Marcie Anderson: What’s the latest news on Ceci and Rebekkah?
Cecilia Zandalasini and Rebekkah Brunson have yet to appear in a game so far this season for Minnesota, and it’s not really known yet when they will return to the team.
With Zandalasini, she continues to finish up her commitments overseas and we should see her come back to Minnesota later on this summer. When she returns, it will be interesting to see how the Lynx address their roster to make room for her.
When it comes to Brunson, there really hasn’t been an update provided by anyone as far as if she plans on returning this season or not. Brunson suffered a concussion at the end of the 2018 season and is still trying to fully recover from the injury.
From what Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve hinted at in her comments during training camp regarding Brunson’s progress, we likely won’t see the veteran post for a majority of the season — if at all in 2019.
I would think if Brunson knew she wasn’t going to come back and would happen to retire, we would have heard a retirement announcement by now. This might be something where the Lynx and Brunson continue to monitor how the team is doing and how she is healing and will address everything in the second half of the season.
Margot S Howard: What’s the recovery timeframe for Mone?
Adding to the list of notable players that will be absent in Minnesota for the 2019 season, the Lynx will now also be without veteran guard Seimone Augustus for the start of the summer.
Augustus, who has been sidelined since training camp while dealing with a knee injury, underwent surgery on that knee last week, according to a release sent out by the organization.
Within the release, the team announced that Augustus “will be sidelined indefinitely,” while adding they will address her injury and recovery when appropriate.
As far as a timetable for Augustus’ return to the rotation and to the starting lineup for Minnesota, Cheryl Reeve mentioned last week after practice that her hope is around six weeks would be an appropriate expectation for the veteran’s return to the team.
In the meantime, Sims has stepped up into that starting shooting guard role for the Lynx and has done a nice job filling in through the first week of play. With Karima Christmas-Kelly coming back and Augustus eventually returning to the lineup, Minnesota has established a nice amount of depth at the guard and wing positions for the year.
Jess Shepard seems like the ultimate teammate. She screens, rebounds, passes and is vocal. How is she fitting in
— Kim Henrickson (@kimba55h) May 31, 2019
I would say that describing rookie forward Jessica Shepard as “the ultimate teammate” is the perfect way to describe her and her time with the Lynx so far in her WNBA career.
One example of being the ultimate teammate and doing whatever it takes to helping your team win is what Shepard was able to do in her impressive WNBA debut against the Chicago Sky.
In that season-opening win, Shepard finished with three points, but added a team-high 13 rebounds and six assists along with that in 27 minutes off the bench.
After that game, her post-game comments surrounding her performance were exactly what you want to hear out of a rookie and is the mindset you want a young player to have.
“I think, for me, I knew I missed a couple bunnies, so I just wanted to make it up rebounding,” Shepard told the media after the win in the season opener. “To me, rebounding is effort, so anytime I can get in there and get the rebound and get my team those extra chances, that’s what I try to do.”
Overall, Shepard fits in really well with what this Lynx team is trying to do and with the style of play that Reeve likes to have among her teams. Which, I suppose, is ultimately one of the reasons Minnesota had its eyes on her when they picked her in the second round of the draft before the season.
Stephen Scott: How Cheryl’s philosophy on playing younger players evolved? What challenges do you foresee with the integration of healthy players later in the season?
It’s been well-known throughout her coaching career that Cheryl Reeve prefers to deal with veteran, battle-tested players rather than young, inexperienced players who require more of a learning curve.
This year, however, she’s had to deal with the latter and admitted that it has been somewhat of a learning curve for her so far, but a challenge that she has enjoyed.
I think in 2019, Reeve doesn’t have much of a choice when it comes to whether or not she wants to stick to her philosophies as far as who she plays and when.
The reality of it is, the Lynx have a roster that contains a decent amount of younger players and Reeve has seemed very open to allowing those younger players time to adjust to the WNBA. That is, as long as they play hard and can control what they can do in various aspects of the game.
When it comes to any challenges that would come with the integration of healthy players later on in the season, I don’t think that will really be an issue at all. Depth and help among the second unit is nothing but a good thing and can only help Minnesota moving forward.
The only thing that I will be watching is how those healthy or returning players adjust to being back and how well they are able to adjust to competing in the WNBA once again.
As always, thanks to all of you for submitting your questions for this week’s Lynx mailbag. A lot of good questions continue to be submitted on social media.
Enjoy the second week of regular season. See you back here with another mailbag on June 17!
Submit Your Lynx Mailbag Questions
Our Mitchell Hansen will continue to publish Lynx mailbag’s every other Monday throughout the course of the 2019 WNBA season here at Zone Coverage.
Have a question surrounding the Lynx that you would like answered? Submit them by tweeting at him @M_Hansen13! The next Lynx mailbag will be on Monday, June 17.