Still in Search of an Identity, New Lynx Additions Playing Key Roles Early

(image credit: screenshot from Minnesota Lynx on YouTube)

Coming into the 2021 WNBA season, the Minnesota Lynx were viewed as a team ready to contend for a league championship. With an impressive new-look roster headlined by a trio of free-agent additions brought in this offseason, Minnesota could still become one of the top teams in the league and contend for a title.

Still, it will take some time for that to come together.

After falling to the New York Liberty on the road Tuesday night, the Lynx dropped to 0-2 on the year, the first time a Cheryl Reeve-led Minnesota team started a season off with two losses. Minnesota is still in search of its true identity while the players build chemistry.

“We’re still trying to figure out who we are,” Reeve said following Tuesday’s loss. “Identity-wise, we are still trying to figure this out. We’ve got enough new pieces, and we are without a key piece. We’re a work in progress.”

As Minnesota tries to figure things out and awaits for the return of Napheesa Collier in the next week, the trio of new additions in Kayla McBride, Aerial PowersΒ and Natalie Achonwa has been relied upon to play key roles early to help the Lynx avoid falling too far behind to start the season.

“One way to find out what your identity is is to push through the hard moments,” McBride said. “We’ll figure this out.”

New Lynx Trio Hitting the Ground Running

It may be just two games into the regular season, but Minnesota’s newcomers have been forced to adapt early with their new team. And although it may be a small sample size, the Lynx have seen some positive production out of those players to start the year.Β 

McBride, who landed in Minnesota from overseas last Wednesday and didn’t practice with the team before taking the floor in the season-opener last Friday, has averaged 16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in two contests while arguably being the best player on the floor for the Lynx to this point. McBride was particularly impressive against the Phoenix Mercury at Target Center in the opener, finishing with 17 points and six rebounds.

“It was actually kind of fun,” McBride said of joining Minnesota and immediately jumping into a new season. “Coach has been keeping me in the loop while I’ve been overseas with the playbook. I was excited to play and just want to be myself and do what I do. I’m just trying to get a feel for my teammates.

“I’ve been super excited about this all offseason, and I’m so excited to be here. That’s why I want to be out there, no matter what the circumstances are, to be with my team.”

Powers, who didn’t appear in a scrimmage or preseason game leading up to the start of the regular season on Friday, opened the year by leading her new team with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists in the season-opener. As she tries to get back into full game shape, Powers has averaged 11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 blocks in two games.

“You can see she has a dynamic way about her. It’s a good contrast to what (McBride) does on the perimeter,” Reeve said of Powers. “She’s just one of those players that sometimes will try to do things that maybe are a little bit more difficult than what they should be, but AP is finding her way. She’s out of shape and not even close to game shape. It’s hard when you’re playing tired because you’re not focused on performance; you’re focused on surviving. I think AP is giving us everything she has, and she’s more dynamic, makes some big plays for us, and gives us some toughness, that’s for sure.”

Achonwa hasn’t made as large of an impact with Minnesota to this point but will have plenty of season to do so alongside Sylvia Fowles, Damiris Dantas, Collier and others in the post group. Achonwa finished with two points and three rebounds in the season opener and ended up missing Tuesday’s game against New York with a knee injury that is believed to be day-to-day.

The trio of McBride, Powers and Achonwa have all been welcomed additions in the early stages of the year, even though how they fit within the team and how they co-exist with the other players on the roster is still a work in progress. But the Lynx are determined to figure things out and turn things around.

“Once we put these pieces together, this could be really special. Whatever everyone else is saying, we know who we are in this locker room and the pieces that we have and coaches that we have,” McBride said. “We know that, and we’re going to get back into the gym and keep finding out exactly who we are. You can tell this team has no fear, and we have a great leader with Coach Reeve and the rest of the staff. The sky is the limit, and we know that.”

When Collier returns to the Lynx, this team can officially begin the process of gelling as a complete unit while trying to figure things out to make a deep run in the postseason at the end of the summer. Right now, things are a work in progress, and Minnesota is still in search of its identity. And the new additions to the team will be forced to play key roles both now and throughout the rest of the season to help lead the Lynx to their ultimate goal.

“I think the potential is big. … When (Collier) gets here, we’re going to add another dynamic to our team,” Powers said. “I expect us to go on a run. We’re going to figure it out, and I think we’re going to be a good team.”

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