August 13, 2020
Odyssey Sims ready for ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience in Bradenton
The Lynx have fared well without her, but Sims’ offensive prowess may take them to the next level
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Minnesota Lynx guard Odyssey Sims (1) during 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
Multiple WNBA teams have been negatively impacted by the absence of their 2019 All-Stars in the IMG Academy bubble.
Without Elena Delle Donne (and a boatload of other star-caliber players), the Washington Mystics have now lost five straight games for the first time since 2016.
The Connecticut Sun are beginning to find their footing without Jonquel Jones but have a difficult road ahead as they sit at 3-6 over a third of the way through the regular season.
The 3-5 Indiana Fever could expedite their growth process by adding another player with more than four years of experience to their lineup, but 2019 All-Star Game MVP Erica Wheeler has yet to enter the bubble after dealing with COVID-19.
The Minnesota Lynx, who are tied for the second-best record in the league, have fared rather well without their 2019 All-Star guard.
And now, at 6-2, they get to add Odyssey Sims into the mix.
Sims missed the first third of the regular season while recovering from childbirth but entered the bubble on Aug. 6 and is expected to make her 2020 debut on Thursday against the Las Vegas Aces, who also sit at 6-2. Upon entering the bubble, Sims was required to quarantine in her room for three days then served a two-game suspension for a 2019 drunken driving arrest.
But now she’s ready to make her presence felt.
“Just to be here, I’m excited to get the opportunity to play the game I love,” Sims said. “I was on the verge of possibly sitting out. But my intuition of basketball wouldn’t let me. So I’m here now.”
Sims’ decision to play in 2020 was a difficult one that neither she nor Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve took lightly. In fact, her decision wasn’t made in March, April or May.
“This was literally something I made my mind up (about) in July,” Sims said. “We talked and we got reconnected, and I told (Reeve) that I wanted to play. She asked me how I felt, and mentally, it’s just mind over matter. That’s what I’m telling myself every game, every practice as I work back into getting in game shape.
“It’s going to be a task. Up until this point, it has been hard. I mean, I had a kid. Coming back from pregnancy is not the easiest, but I’m here and I’m ready to play.”
And frankly, Sims’ return couldn’t come at a better time.
Rookie point guard Crystal Dangerfield has turned heads with the way she’s held down the fort in Sims’ absence so much so that she’s earned herself 28.1 minutes per game.
“Crystal has done a great job with taking on the point guard role, and she’s scoring the ball and getting to the lane, dishing; she’s doing a little bit of everything,” Sims said. “You would think when you’re watching her she’s a second- or third-year player.”
But the minutes are beginning to take their toll on the rookie.
“Crystal is one of our more banged-up players right now,” said Reeve after Tuesday’s win against Washington. “She’s at this place where she could probably use a week off, but we told her that’s not coming for a very long time. She’s just going to have to figure it out with one day in between, but she’s hanging in there.
“It’ll be a good time to get Odyssey back.”
Even with Dangerfield’s stellar start to her career as a professional floor general, the Lynx’s offense is still below average.
As of Wednesday, the Lynx hold the second-best defensive rating in the league (94.6) but are seventh in offensive rating (100.3) and are coming off a game in which they only managed to score four points in the third quarter. (And yes, they still won that game, re: Mystics’ five-game losing streak.)
Napheesa Collier and Damiris Dantas have shot a combined 67-for-159 (42.1%) from the field through eight games and could benefit greatly from playing alongside another playmaker. Collier was 2-for-12 from the field against Washington on Tuesday in another game in which it’s clear teams are getting a better grasp on how to defend the reigning Rookie of the Year.
“Those of us who’ve been around know that the second year is not exactly easy,” Reeve said. “And, you know, last year the focus was she was playing small forward. To start the year, we had Jess Shepard who was a really good passer and we could get Phee on her cutting. We are missing that element for Phee.”
Reeve said Collier’s early offensive struggles remind her of when Maya Moore was playing without a talented passer.
“All of a sudden you’ve got to work much, much harder to score,” Reeve said. “In Phee’s case, she’s limiting in the way that she’s willing to try to score, which is only to go to the basket. Now everybody knows her shtick at this point.”
Collier recorded 127 assisted shots in 2019, and Sims, who led the Lynx in assists per game last season, assisted 36 of Collier’s shots, per WNBA.com. Damiris Dantas assisted 34 of Collier’s shots, but then there was a large drop-off.
Breakdown of Napheesa Collier’s assisted field goals from 2019, per WNBA.com
Not only could Sims help Collier’s game with her passing, but her ability to get to the rim may create more opportunities for Collier along the perimeter.
Odyssey Sims attempted 46 layups and 38 total shots in the restricted area through her first eight games of the 2019 season. Sims was not particularly efficient in the restricted area where she shot 44.7% at the start of the regular season, but she at least created 3-point opportunities for her teammates on her drive-and-kicks.
That’s been missed by the Lynx so far in 2020.
Dangerfield has attempted 26 layups and 14 shots in the restricted area through eight games, Rachel Banham has attempted eight and two, and Lexie Brown has shot eight and six in her first six games of the regular season.
If Sims can get to the basket as she did in her first season with the Lynx, Collier’s offensive production could quickly be on the rise.
“I’m just excited,” Sims said. “We’re 6-2 right now, tied for second, and it’s just going to be exciting to watch as the season unwinds and we get down to the playoffs.”
And yet, to assume Sims will return to All-Star mode right away is foolish. Sims hasn’t played competitive basketball in 11 months, and she’ll need some time to mesh with her new teammates before we can expect her turnover rate to improve.
But Sims’ passion to play hasn’t been fatigued.
“We’re in a bubble and this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Sims said. “I know players have been sitting out with the social injustice, and I was on the verge [of doing so], but at the same time, this to me, is a historic season. Years later, I’ll have something to talk to my son about. We all have something to talk about to our parents, cousins. This is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience and just to be here, it’s amazing how the WNBA still made a season. I know they were on the verge of not having one, and to make it possible, it really means a lot.”