The Minnesota Lynx came into the 2021 WNBA season with championship aspirations while looking to hit the ground running following a busy offseason filled with free-agent acquisitions. Unfortunately, the regular season began with a flood of disappointment and was a surprise to many as they opened up the new year with an 0-4 start, quickly dropping them to the bottom of the league standings.
They were the only team without a win through the first four games of the regular season.
Part of those struggles were due to late arrivals and struggling to find time to practice together to incorporate the offseason additions into the current roster. Minnesota had a few stretches during the first couple weeks of the season without games that served as a second training camp.
“The schedule really helped us in terms of the time off. We talked about that the last two weeks. I think that really helped us,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “I’m impressed with our team. They all have high expectations for themselves; that’s why they’re here. They just scratched and clawed and figured out being prideful and what we wanted to get better at. We stuck together. That’s so important because things can go the wrong way in a hurry. We just needed to get some practices (in) and get home and find our identity.”
Now that we’re into June, those extra practices and time together have resulted in the Lynx starting to figure things out going into a stretch of the schedule that features winnable games, which could end up making or breaking their season. And Reeve and Co. feel much more confident now than they did just a few weeks ago.
“Remember just kind of where we were. Just a terrible training camp, we were disjointed, not really understanding our identity, and not even having your full identity a part of it,” Reeve said. “I think about those games and think about how far we were.”
On May 30, Minnesota was finally able to break into the win column for the first time of the season, taking down a talented and league-leading Connecticut Sun team at Target Center. Following that game, the Lynx went on to win the next two and extended their winning streak to three in a row before that it came to an end on the road against the Washington Mystics on Tuesday.
After a winless start to the year, Minnesota appears to have started to finally find its identity and is gelling together as many expected. Wins have followed as a result.
“I’m really proud of the way we trusted each other and kind of came together,” Kayla McBride said. “Obviously it sucks to lose, but I don’t think anybody really panicked. We came back and when adversity hit, we responded. This is the response I’m hoping we can build on.
“We’re still figuring each other out on both ends of the floor, but having that (championship) culture to stand on is something that carries us through the adversity. A lot of people in this group and in our circle have been here before. When you have that, you have the confidence to push through.”
The Lynx are in the middle of an eight-game stretch that spans through most of the month of June that could allow them to climb out of the early-season hole and rise up the WNBA standings, where Minnesota currently sits tied for 8th place with a record of 3-5 following Tuesday’s loss.
The first three games of that eight-game stretch included two wins over the Atlanta Dream last weekend and a loss to the Mystics on Tuesday. After that, it will feature teams like the Los Angeles Sparks, Chicago Sky and Dallas Wings (twice).
“I think morale is definitely a lot higher,” Napheesa Collier said. “I think this is definitely the path that we want to be on. There are things we still want to work, but it’s still early in the season. If we can continue to build on (winning games), I think we’ll be OK.”
The Lynx still have their work cut out for them and the upcoming slate of games won’t be easy by any means. But Minnesota feels like it is finally hitting its stride now a month in the 2021 campaign.
“We’re still getting there, and I think we’ll end up being stronger for it,” Reeve said. “I think this is a glimpse of (what this team can be). … It obviously feels good to have some success.”