May 27, 2021
Minnesota Lynx look to right the ship behind Napheesa Collier, Layshia Clarendon
How the Lynx are resetting and looking to secure their first win
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Although starting the game with a promising first half, the Minnesota Lynx earned their third consecutive loss in their May 20th home game against the Seattle Storm. Despite starting the season 0-3, a first for the team since 2007, there were more signs of promise of what this team could be this year – the Lynx outperformed the Storm in the paint 40-26 (In the 2020 season, the Lynx scored 40+ paint points on just five occasions); Sylvia Fowles had another record-breaking night, becoming the new WNBA career leader in defensive rebounds with 2,434, passing Lisa Leslie who previously held the record with 2,425 defensive rebounds.
Fowles also had her second straight 20+ point game. Crystal Dangerfield had an impressive performance coming off the bench, registering a team-high 22 points, becoming the 11th Lynx player off the bench to score 20+ points and the fourth Lynx player to make 10+ field goals.
But the Lynx still don’t have a win and they’ve been struggling to find their identity. With a week off from gameplay to dedicate to practice, the return of third-year star Napheesa Collier and the rumored signing of All-Star point guard Layshia Clarendon, the Lynx are regrouping and refocusing in hopes of securing their first win this season.
“We have a group that hasn’t been together that is now together and we desperately need this time,” Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve told reporters when asked if the week off of games was like a second training camp, “(It’s) not an excuse as to why we weren’t successful but every team would like to have all their players together.”
With key players Collier and Kayla McBride missing training camp due to overseas commitments, it’s the first time that the Lynx have had everyone at practice. “We didn’t have a very productive training camp. We’ve had far more productivity within the last three days than we did at any point in training camp.” Reeve said.
The timing of their game-break week perfectly coincided with Collier being cleared to join in team activities after returning overseas, and the Lynx are glad to have their 2019 Rookie of the Year back in the gym. “She’s doing Phee-like things,” Reeve said, “It’s nice to have that back.”
“She didn’t miss one shot today. She didn’t miss a shot.” Crystal Dangerfield told reporters when crashing Collier’s virtual meeting with the media.
“It was really hard,” Collier told reporters when asked about being separated from the team while she went through the league’s health and safety protocols, “Especially because I feel like I’ve been testing (for COVID) so much being overseas and I wish I could’ve been out there. To be so close but not be able to play with the team is really hard.”
Collier’s absence has been missed by the team. The dynamic player has a strong presence on the team and Coach Reeve is glad to have that back. “I know that Phee will take it upon herself to be a leader in terms of the effort areas and things that it takes to win possessions or win games and I think we’ve missed at times,” Reeve said, “When I talk about the multiple effort (I mean) sometimes it’s sprinting back and breaking up a transition play, get a deflection and just break it up. Phee has that will and that play is contagious. We’re excited to have her back.”
The return of Collier isn’t the only addition to the Lynx roster. League sources indicate that Layshia Clarendon is in talks to sign with the team. The addition of the veteran point guard, who was previously waived by the New York Liberty, could be the additional step that helps the team snap their losing streak.
Clarendon has the experience of running an offense, something Minnesota has struggled with so far this season with the switch to Dangerfield coming off the bench and McBride and Aerial Powers starting in the backcourt. He would take pressure off both Powers and McBride, who in the last three games have pulled double duty as ball handlers and shot makers. The addition of Clarendon would bring a veteran ball-handler to the lineup and allow McBride and Powers to focus more on what they were brought to Minnesota to do – make shots.
Another area Clarendon can help the Lynx is helping to create easy shooting opportunities. “In the second half (in the game against Seattle), our offense just slowed down so much and we were not as hard to play against. We were not making multiple efforts on our offense with our passes and our driving and so then the shots weren’t as easy.” Reeve told reporters virtually after team practice. Last year, when Clarendon was on the floor, they assisted 32% of their teammates’ baskets last year, ranked fifth overall in the league. When he’s on the floor, shots are happening and they’re being made.
Clarendon brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge, something the 2020 Rookie of the Year, Dangerfield, can take advantage of. Dangerfield hasn’t had a consistent veteran point guard presence to learn from and the addition of Clarendon as an established veteran leader can only help further Dangerfield’s development.
Clarendon is a pass-first point guard, averaging 4 assists per game last year. Their addition to the Lynx roster compliments the game of Dangerfield, who tends to be more of a score-first point guard, who averaged 16.2 points per game last year and is on a similar pace this year, registering 22 points in the loss to Seattle.
Unfortunately, the Lynx will be preparing for their upcoming rematch against the Seattle Storm without Powers, who is out indefinitely with a hamstring strain. Though Powers will be missing in the lineup, the Lynx could snag their first win this year now that Collier’s back and with the addition of Clarendon, could reignite their campaign to win a championship.