August 16, 2022
A lack of buy-in doomed the Minnesota Lynx. What will the offseason bring?
'This team, I had to accept less'
Cheryl Reeve was adamant during the exit interviews for the Minnesota Lynx on Monday that one thing, in particular, held her team back this past summer.
No, it wasn’t their 10th-ranked defense (104.4 defensive rating) nor their 10th-ranked turnover percentage (19.3%). (Though, obviously, neither was exactly a help.) Neither was it necessarily their inconsistent point guard play nor the combination of injuries and poor play that led to her team beginning the season 3-13. (Again, these factors were a significant negative.)
The one thing that held the Lynx back and that Reeve could not find an elixir for? Buy-in. Buy-in to the team. Buy-in to the process. Buy-in to winning a championship.
“We had a little bit of trouble finding our footing. It should not have taken us as long as it did,” Reeve said. “I think if everyone’s being honest, we didn’t have great buy-in and belief and that’s one of those things that’s so controllable. It’s really disappointing when it happens, but that was our reality.
“We’ve had a team that is a little more averse to working hard, plain and simple. Want less, not more. Want less drills, not more. And that’s really never been a path of achieving success,” Reeve continued. “It was hard for me to convince them, that what we were doing wasn’t good enough… I tried to really get on them. I’ve tried to yell and cuss and spit. I’ve tried to leave them alone. And I was not able to get through to this group.
“Certainly, there’s reflection on my part, like, ‘What can I do to get a group to buy in?’ Some of that is making sure that you do have personnel that have a great work ethic. And they want to work and they understand. And the great ones have that. There’s not a lot of great players in the league. There’s a reason why some players aren’t great because they’re not willing. They don’t understand the attention to detail that it takes. This team just was resistant to being pushed towards being better. This team, I had to accept less, which goes against everything I stand for and believe in so that we could survive. So that we could find some sort of place that they could find success.”
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While it could be argued that the Lynx did survive — they finished the season winning 11 of their final 20 games to finish with a 14-22 record and just outside of the playoffs — they certainly did not thrive, which is unacceptable to a coach and general manager of Reeve’s caliber and acumen. The fact that she will have two first-round picks and nearly $540K in cap space to play around with this coming free agency and in the trade market makes it all the more likely that the Minnesota Lynx will look drastically different come next summer.
Well, that is, assuming Reeve returns to the Lynx.
Reeve is herself a free agent as her contract is set to expire once the WNBA season is complete and, thus, would be able to sign anywhere she wants.
“Ownership has been very good to me. Ownership believes in me. Ownership is in this with me. I think that’s really important. I’ve made a life here, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gonna last a lifetime. And so I don’t take anything for granted,” Reeve said. “I think if ownership thinks that I’m still the right person to lead us through this next time, I have to determine whether I’m up for that challenge.”
Reeve is close with current owner Glen Taylor and the two have spoken about continuing their relationship next season. However, Reeve has not yet spoken with Alex Rodriguez or Marc Lore, both of whom are expected to become majority owners of the Lynx and Timberwolves in 2023.
“As we get closer to a transition, I have not had conversations specifically with Mark and Alex about my situation. I have with Glen,” Reeve said. “What I expect is for Glen to be a liaison to what’s next, especially if we’re talking about a contract for more than a year.”
It would come as an incredible surprise if Reeve is not offered a multi-year extension to remain as head coach and general manager of the Minnesota Lynx; but, as Reeve implied, there are few certainties in life. Assuming she is retained, the Lynx will be open to the many paths they could take to return to the top of the WNBA standings.
Reeve, who has shied away from taking on rookies since her team’s championship run in the mid-2010s, stated that she would potentially be more willing to do so next spring. (The Lynx have a 10.4% shot at landing the first-overall pick — and, thus, South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston — and also own the No. 12 pick courtesy of Las Vegas.) It also wouldn’t be surprising if they made a run at veteran free agents such as point guard Courtney Vandersloot and forward Breanna Stewart.
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Regardless of the path they take, Minnesota will build around Napheesa Collier, the heir apparent to Sylvia Fowles and by far the best player remaining on the Lynx’s roster. Reeve will lean on input from Collier and potentially others who are set to return, such as Kayla McBride, when making roster decisions.
“I think Cheryl’s been really good with that since I got here, just talking to us about who we want to play with. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens again,” Collier said. “Cheryl is really good with that and I’m excited to do that too. It’s hard because being a GM is not easy. I definitely don’t envy her job, especially when it comes to who’s not going to be on the team. I hate those conversations. But I think it’s gonna be really cool to kind of see what we can play around with and what potentially we could be next year.”
What the Lynx could be next year is up in the air and there will be many months to analyze draft prospects and contemplate acquisitions they could make. But, according to Reeve, there is one thing that Lynx fans can take to the bank for next season:
“We will have a team that buys in. Guaranteed.”
Written by Lucas Seehafer
Lucas Seehafer is a general reporter for The Next. He is also a physical therapist and professor at the undergraduate level. His work has previously appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Forbes, FanSided, and various other websites.