July 14, 2020 

Lynx aim to control the controllables during training camp

COVID-19 shed light on unanswered questions during the first weekend of training camp. The Lynx remain vigilant as they search for normalcy.

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Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier (24) before the WNBA game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on July 06, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

The Tik Tok has the potential to make viewers forget they’re living in 2020 — even if it’s just for one second.

Lynx players were filmed dancing to AC the Prince’s “Go Go Go Who’s Next,” showing off their varying levels of rhythm while lightheartedly giving fans a glimpse of the first day of training camp nowhere near Minneapolis.

A smile may crack while watching the players enjoy themselves make the most of their demanding season. But the real kicker comes in the final three seconds of the 19-second clip when Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve gets in on the action to show up her players.

“Truth be told, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” Reeve, Tik Tok’s latest and most surprising star, said. “Nor did I know that I would be on this thing called Tik Tok. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that Cheryl Reeve was somebody who’d be on Tik Tok.

“They set me up on that one.”

But scroll deeper through Tik Tok or WNBA Twitter and you’ll quickly be reminded of the harsh realities that have become unavoidable for many teams.

Two Indiana Fever players tested positive for COVID-19 before traveling to Bradenton, Florida, delaying the team’s trip by five days and adding to the vast concern regarding the pandemic.

Connecticut’s Briann January and Natisha Hiedeman tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday and are both awaiting two negative tests before they may join the Sun at IMG Academy.

Jessica Breland’s 2020 season ended before it began when she announced her medical exemption on Sunday. The effects of the chemotherapy used to treat the Phoenix forward’s Hodgkin’s lymphoma makes her a vulnerable target of the coronavirus. Elena Delle Donne’s medical exemption was denied, and Tina Charles is still waiting to get word on her exemptions.

A medical health assessment has aided Dan Hughes not to join his Seattle Storm team in Florida.

Chicago’s Sydney Colson and New York’s Megan Walker and Asia Durr have tested positive for COVID-19. Durr has since announced she will not play in 2020.

Fortunately, the Lynx roster has not been altered by the pandemic since the team arrived in Bradenton. Yet, Reeve’s team knows all too well that Tik Tok views won’t prevent the pandemic from striking. Relieving distractions may be needed at times, but precaution and preparation have never been more vital — even for a four-time championship franchise.

Thankfully, Reeve has not been forced to delve into the fluid intricacies of replacing an injured or ill player so far this season. But she’s done so anyway.

“We talked a lot before we came down here just in the planning stages of how exactly we would handle (replacing a player),” said Reeve during Sunday’s media availability. “We never landed on anything solid with regard to having a pool of players. Honestly, we never got a good answer.”

The league has yet to set firm guidelines on how a team would replace a player on time during the season while also following the clean site’s pandemic-related mandates.

“This is such a fluid process because of the medical part of it,” Reeve said. “That’s the problem that we’re having right now is that if you bring someone that has not been here since July 6 and hasn’t gone through all the testing, when they come in … and we had a week of testing before we got here. So how do you effectively do that without taking up weeks to get yourself a player?

“I’ll be really honest, I don’t think we … we don’t have a good answer. We don’t have a solution.”

This solution along with the countless others the pandemic calls for will, of course, be harder to remedy than beating a team by 59 points or defeating the Sparks in Los Angeles during Game 4 of the Finals to avoid elimination.

For now, Reeve and her players will rely on a dependable solution: controlling what they can control.

“Yeah, we started working on (defense) on Day 1,” said co-captain Napheesa Collier, laughing at the idea that Reeve would waste a day of training camp before defensive schemes were studied. “We do work on defense a lot because it’s part of our identity, and it’s something that we take a lot of pride in. So we have been doing that, and I feel really good with where our team is. Defense is 100% effort, and our team gives that.”

Moving on from defense-focused Zoom call sessions to on-court lessons may have added regularity for some. But as of Saturday, basketball hadn’t provided much normalcy for co-captain Sylvia Fowles.

“To be honest, it’s been a little weird,” Fowles said. “This is just our second day of practice, our third day on the floor. It feels weird so it hasn’t really sunk in yet that this season is about to begin.

“I think for the most part it’s just me making sure I get into a groove, making sure we get everybody on board and making sure we do what we need to do as Lynx basketball players.”

Some days, “getting into a groove” may require spending more time on implementing offensive schemes than Reeve intended for.

“I think I’ve given them too many plays,” said Reeve after Sunday’s practice. “I think we’re up to three plays now, and we’re still not good at it. So I have to cut back even further.”

Other days, getting on board may require reminders of why they chose to opt into the 2020 season.

“A lot of things kind of hit home for me as far as George Floyd being from Houston and then recently Vanessa (Guillen) down in Houston as well,” Houston native and Lynx co-captain Karima Christmas-Kelly revealed. “This is just like kind of dedicating my season to them.”

And every so often, enhancing team chemistry while becoming the day’s Tik Tok sensation may be the solution.

“The energy that we’ve had, I mentioned it after Day 1,” Reeve said. “Sustaining that … you know, because everything is new, but sustaining that is going to be the key. I just think we have the right people. They’re thinking about the right things.”

Written by Katie Davidson

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