With the new WNBA season here, it’s time for the return of the Minnesota Lynx Mailbag!
The Lynx kicked off the 2021 campaign last Friday when they returned to Target Center to host the Phoenix Mercury, the first regular-season game in Minneapolis in nearly two full years. With another year beginning, let’s take a look at your early-season Lynx and WNBA questions.
Melissa Schreifels: How many fans are being allowed at games right now and do you know when that will increase?
For the first game of the year last Friday, the Lynx were capped at 3,000 fans in Target Center, similar to what has been the case at Timberwolves games since fans were allowed back into the arena. Against the Phoenix Mercury, fans were spread out in two- and four-person pods both in the upper and lower levels of Target Center, with the announced attendance of the game at 2,021.
That 3,000 number could increase as soon as the end of the month as Minnesota’s COVID restrictions continue to loosen up, although it’s yet to be seen just how much the attendance would increase or if it would fully open back up at the end of the month. Last week the Minnesota Twins announced their plan to increase attendance in increments throughout the summer, with the goal to hit 100% capacity by July 5. Granted, the Twins play outdoors at Target Field, so that might be a different situation, but that could be a model the Lynx end up following.
A majority of those in attendance for Minnesota’s 2021 opener were season-ticket holders, although single-game tickets have been and will continue to be available for fans moving forward.
It will be interesting to see if Target Center and the Lynx end up allowing more fans in the coming weeks. I would imagine there will be an announcement on that topic soon.
Jeremy Hernandez: Has the league put out details about how the Commissioner’s Cup will work and what the prizes are for the teams?
One new element of the 2021 season is the Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season tournament between all 12 WNBA teams. The Commissioner’s Cup was supposed to begin last year, but the season being moved to a bubble location in Bradenton, Fla. put a damper on that.
Right before the start of the regular season, the WNBA released additional details on the Commissioner’s Cup and the prizes to be awarded.
There will be a total of 60 regular-season intra-conference games that count towards the Commissioner’s Cup standings. The team with the highest winning percentage from those games in each conference will advance to the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game on Aug. 12.
Players will be battling for a piece of a prize pool that totals $500,000. According to the WNBA, members of the winning team will be able to earn in excess of $30,000 per player, while members of the runner-up squad will have an opportunity to earn $10,000 per player. Whoever wins the MVP award in the championship game will also get an additional $5,000.
It will be interesting to see if this in-season tournament will continue beyond this year and how players, the league, and fans respond. At the very least it offers another goal to work toward during the season.
Joshya Wenck: Is there salary cap relief for the Lynx to roster a player until Davis is off the IR? If so, do you think they’ll roster a player that’s already in camp?
A few days into training camp, the Lynx announced that rookie Rennia Davis would miss some time with a stress fracture in her foot, an injury believed to have occurred at the end of her collegiate career at Tennessee and worsened upon her arrival in Minnesota.
A stress fracture in a foot is never something to mess around with, and Davis could miss an extended period of time in her rookie campaign. Minnesota hasn’t said how long Davis is expected to be sidelined, and the Lynx hope to get her back at some point this summer.
With Davis out, that will leave Minnesota down another player on a roster that will already feature 11 of the 12 possible players allowed. So the Lynx will be at 10 players until Davis returns to the floor.
To answer the question about the potential for Minnesota to get salary cap relief for Davis being out, that answer is no, because she hasn’t been suspended or placed on injured reserve. As of now, Davis will essentially count against the salary cap this season the same way she would if she was on the floor.
The reason Minnesota was able to sign Linnae Harper, as they did a few days after waiving her from the training camp roster, was due to the hardship exception. It allows teams to become eligible to sign players to replacement contracts if they have two players out because of injury, illness, or other conditions.
The Lynx were without Kayla McBride until she returned to the team right before the season opener last Friday, but they were still without Napheesa Collier (playing overseas) and Davis for the first game of the year. With Collier returning soon, Minnesota will likely narrow the roster back down to 11 — including Davis — as it continues to roll through the 2021 season.
That will do it for this week’s Lynx Mailbag. Enjoy the return of the WNBA and, as always, thanks for your questions.