July 30, 2020 

‘It’s difficult’: Karima Christmas-Kelly’s season-ending injury and what it means for the Lynx

The Lynx announced on Wednesday that forward Karima Christmas-Kelly will miss the remainder of the 2020 season due to a ruptured right Achilles Tendon.

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The Minnesota Lynx announced on Wednesday that co-captain Karima Christmas-Kelly will miss the remainder of the 2020 season due to a ruptured right Achilles Tendon she suffered during Tuesdays’ loss to the Seattle Storm. Photo credit: Minnesota Lynx Twitter account

Season-ending injuries limited Karima Christmas-Kelly to 12 total games between the 2018 and 2019 WNBA seasons. So when she returned to the Lynx’s 2020 training camp eager to play and serve as a co-captain of her team in July, the “comeback season” narratives were aplenty.

But Christmas-Kelly’s full, on-court comeback will have to be delayed once again.

Christmas-Kelly’s 2020 season came to an end on Tuesday night when the Lynx forward and co-captain went down with an injury that left her hobbling off the court during Minnesota’s loss to the Seattle Storm. The injury was initially ruled as a right ankle injury, but on Wednesday, the Lynx announced Christmas-Kelly would miss the remainder of the 2020 season due to a ruptured right Achilles Tendon.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to play with (Christmas-Kelly) much, but her presence is always felt,” said Lynx guard Shenise Johnson during Wednesday’s Zoom availability. “She’s a great communicator, she’s one of our captains on the team this year, she leads by example, she’s probably one of the hardest working people I’ve come across in these last couple months. It really is a huge blow for us. It’s just really unfortunate.”

“It’s just so sad,” Lynx guard Rachel Banham said. “She’s an amazing person, an amazing teammate. I just feel for her so much.”

Johnson and Banham, two newcomers to the Lynx team, have only played two games with Christmas-Kelly. Yet, her impact on them and the team she’s only spent two seasons with can’t be questioned.

“She’s somebody who doesn’t deserve it,” Banham said. “I mean, no one does, but with someone like her, it’s just so hard to see.”

Christmas-Kelly’s decision to opt into the 2020 season wasn’t a difficult one. She was eager to return to the court after her career was derailed by knee injuries in 2018 and 2019, and she planned to spend this season honoring victims of racial injustice.

“I actually was in Minnesota and I actually got to go out and do a little bit of protesting and different things like that,” said Christmas-Kelly on July 12 when sharing her reason for opting into the 2020 season. “I think I wanted to use this season to really honor those people. A lot of things kind of hit home for me as far as George Floyd being from Houston and then recently Vanessa down in Houston as well. This is just like kind of dedicating my season to them.

“Also, me trying to come back and just, you know, prove to myself that I can be back out there and I can work through whatever I’ve been working through the last couple of years and just being a motivation to other people and not really giving up on what I believe in and the game that I love.”

But now she’ll have to do so off the court.

“(Christmas-Kelly) actually commented that this was the first day she didn’t have any pain in her knee and didn’t have anything going on with her knees,” Reeve said. “And then something like that happens. You feel for her.

“You know, they say injuries are a part of it, but it’s … difficult. Difficult to hear, difficult for our team. It’s not only difficult for Karima but also what she means to our team. So obviously not a great day for us.”

2020 has forced many to figure out solutions on the fly, and the Lynx are no exception.

Reeve said it was too early to lay out the details of where and when Christmas-Kelly’s rehab will begin, but her surgery will not take place within the WNBA’s bubble.

Her absence will leave the Lynx with 11 active players, and Lexie Brown (concussion protocol) is still questionable for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Sky.

The Lynx’s lacking depth was exposed on Tuesday night when the team’s seven bench players only accounted for 10 total points and eight total rebounds in Minnesota’s 90-66 loss to Seattle.

Odyssey Sims, who missed the start of the season while recovering from labor, is expected to join the Lynx in Bradenton soon but will have to serve a two-game suspension for a 2019 drunken driving arrest upon her arrival. However, the addition of Sims would diminish some of the Lynx’s depth limitations.

Reeve didn’t specify how Christmas-Kelly’s injury will impact Sims’ arrival but said her team is “in discussions around what needs to happen next for our roster.”

Because of Christmas-Kelly’s injury, the Lynx will no longer have to cut a player to make room on their roster for Sims once she arrives. But they will have to address their shortage of small forwards.

Napheesa Collier will likely log more minutes at the 3 moving forward, but Christmas-Kelly’s absence will also present rookie Mikiah “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan and Bridget Carleton with more opportunities to earn playing time.

Herbert Harrigan did not log any playing time in Minnesota’s season-opener against Connecticut but made her WNBA debut on Tuesday night when she recorded 11 minutes, 21 seconds of playing time during Minnesota’s blowout loss to Seattle. The rookie was 0-for-4 from the field but recorded one rebound and one block in her first WNBA game.

Reeve thought Herbert Harrigan was “engaged” during Tuesday’s shootaround and that her minutes against Seattle were valuable.

“Bottom line is what we asked (Herbert Harrigan) to do was just to be ready — not to ride the ups and downs of minutes or what people on the outside are telling her that should be happening. Just to lock in on making the most of any opportunity that comes her way. More than anything, being ready.”

Carleton appeared in both of the Lynx’s first two games but only averaged 4.5 minutes, 1.0 points and 0.5 rebounds against the Sun and Storm.

“Now we’ve got an opportunity for somebody, and that’s the thing with injuries,” Reeve said. “As we saw last year with Napheesa Collier, it’s an opportunity for somebody else, and time will tell as far as how that shows itself.”

Written by Katie Davidson

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