New Additions Spark Excitement, Expectations for Lynx

Sep 22, 2020; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier (24) reacts during the second half against the Seattle Storm at IMG Academy. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

We saw more player movement in the WNBA this offseason than we’ve seen in years. The Minnesota Lynx got in on the trend, signing Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, and Natalie Achonwa to create their deepest roster in years.

About a month later, the Lynx landed themselves the steal of the draft with the selection of Rennia Davis at No. 9 overall.

If that quartet of talent isn’t impressive enough, they join a deep roster centered around Napheesa Collier, Sylvia Fowles, and Crystal Dangerfield, a core that reached the semifinal round last year. With this mix of talent and the newest additions, the Lynx are poised to make another deep run this summer with a renewed level of excitement and expectations going into the season.

“We have a vision for the roster, and who we acquired through free agency and the draft,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said this week. “Now is the technical part. It’s getting on the court and figuring out exactly which pieces go where. That’s the fun of this as we get into practice.”

New Additions Already Making An Impact

Earlier this week, the Lynx kicked off a two-week training camp at The Courts at Mayo Clinic Square while preparing for the upcoming season. Like the rest of the WNBA, Minnesota can hold a normal training camp this year after not having a traditional training camp leading into the bubble season last year.

Not only is it important for the Lynx to have a training camp as they normally would to prepare for the new year, but the number of new faces this season makes the early practice time that much more valuable. However, many of their players are currently overseas. McBride is currently playing in Turkey, and Collier is in France, so they have yet to report to camp. Reeve said that the duo could even end up missing the start of the regular season once they complete a quarantine period upon arrival to Minnesota.

“We haven’t had to deal with the late arrivals very much. … I don’t like the idea of having to miss (time in training camp),” Reeve said. “On top of that, now we have time in quarantine, so it’s not a case of something as simple as you play (overseas) on the 7th and you’re available on the 9th. You’ve got a whole week of quarantine to go through and negative tests. It’s impacting all of us a lot more than what is ideal. … There’s the challenge of, when a player comes, trying to insert them into what we’re already doing and catch up. But that’s everybody’s reality.”

Without McBride and Collier, the offseason additions of Powers, Achonwa, and Davis have already made an impact in the first few days of training camp.

Powers has made the biggest impact in camp with her personality. She’s kept things upbeat and lighthearted, similar to how Seimone Augustus did in her time with Minnesota. That, mixed with her skills on the floor, are already valuable assets to the Lynx roster.

“Anytime AP walks into a room, she’s saying something and bringing that energy. That’s what you love in a teammate, someone that is always bringing positive energy,” Bridget Carleton said this week. “It’s just fun to be around and brings energy to everyone, lightens everyone up, and makes everyone want to work harder. … She’s a great teammate and super fun to be around.”

Achonwa has shown the ability to step up in a leadership role using her voice in the early days of training camp, with teammates noting that her basketball IQ and leadership abilities are already providing a boost to her new team.

“As she tries to navigate the newness that’s all around her, I asked her to live in her happy place, which is leading and using her voice,” Reeve said of Achonwa. “It doesn’t matter what city you’re in, you’re still playing basketball. … They’ve been giving us this calm when it comes to practice.”

When it comes to the rookie Davis, Reeve noted she has been “very coachable” and has learned pretty quickly in the early days of camp as she prepares for her first year in the WNBA.

While Minnesota awaits the arrivals of McBride and Collier in the coming weeks, the chemistry and connectedness of the team are already underway. And the newest faces to the Lynx are providing a big boost to those efforts. ”Just to be in this environment, to be surrounded by so much greatness and so much knowledge. … It’s been great so far,” Achonwa said this week. “There’s been a permanent smile on my face these past couple of days.”

Increased Expectations

The season hasn’t officially tipped off just yet, although the May 14 opening day is quickly approaching, but the Lynx are looking at this year with high hopes and increased expectations as they try to reach the playoffs for an 11th straight season and make a deep run. On paper, once everyone arrives to join the team to make the roster complete, Minnesota has an impressive roster and should be viewed as one of the top teams in the WNBA at the early stages of the regular season.

With those aspirations of where the team could go, the Lynx could be serious contenders for the first time since they claimed the league’s crown in 2017.

“You think about when I first got here (in 2015) and what was my goal. That was to win a championship. Six years in, that goal hasn’t changed,” Fowles said. “Although we’ve seen faces come and go, I think we do have one thing in common, and that’s to play together and have fun and go out there and compete at the best level possible. That starts at training camp. … I think we’re on a good path so far.”

Following a two-game preseason schedule that includes facing the Atlanta Dream on May 1 on the road and the Washington Mystics on May 8 in Minneapolis, the Lynx pursuit of a championship begins May 14 against the Phoenix Mercury in the regular-season opener at Target Center. Although teams always hold high expectations entering every season, the Lynx have an increased sense of excitement and expectations this time around as they enter next year with an impressive group of talent.

“That’s why (the free agents) chose to come here because they saw there’s a foundation that’s been laid, and there’s opportunity for our team to compete for a championship,” Reeve said. “There’s definitely a general feeling of being pretty darn excited and anxious.”

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Sep 22, 2020; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier (24) reacts during the second half against the Seattle Storm at IMG Academy. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

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