May 13, 2022
Minnesota detonates roster in attempt to right ship
Lynx part ways with six players
The prairie lands of the Midwest aren’t accustomed to fires this time of year. The climate is not yet hot enough and the land is often too wet to ignite a spark as the snow melts and March blizzards slowly transition into May showers. The Minnesota natural grasses and wildflowers in particular begin to bloom in earnest as the promise of spring transitions to the unbridled excitement of summer.
Apparently, Cheryl Reeve cares not for pretty flowers nor the natural weather cycles of the Midwest.
The Lynx’s head coach and general manager went scorched earth on the team’s roster Thursday afternoon as Minnesota parted ways with literally half of the roster. Angel McCoughtry was bought out from the one-year, $130,000 contract she signed during the offseason. Odyssey Sims left via “mutual separation.” Rennia Davis, Nikolina Milić, and Yvonne Turner were released from their hardship contracts.
In the aftermath, all that remained of the smoldering Lynx roster were eight athletes, only five of whom are healthy and able to play against the Chicago Sky as the team looks for their first win of the season on Saturday. Evina Westbrook, who signed a hardship contract with the Lynx on Thursday, would make six available players, but she is not yet listed on Minnesota’s roster; her status for the Chicago game is not clear.
Reeve’s tone changed considerably following the Lynx’s loss to the Indiana Fever on Tuesday, metamorphosing from frustrated yet hopeful to full-on exasperation.
“We have a group consistently that gets on the floor and teams go on big runs on them,” Reeve said sharply following the Indiana game. “You know, every game we get a 20-point swing or big deficit after being up 11, and then next thing you know, we’re down nine. We’re going to spend our time—no one’s entitled to a starting job. We’re gonna spend our time tweaking and working and finding the right combinations.”
The frustrations regarding her team were evident since the beginning of the preseason as the Lynx struggled to play effectively on either side of the court. Reeve relayed to the media on multiple occasions her desire for Minnesota to play better when the lights were brightest. Unfortunately, better play never arrived.
“When we’re together and we’re practicing and we’re prepping, they’re saying all the right things and, frankly, doing all the right things,” Reeve said of her team following Lynx’s loss to the Washington Mystics. “Then we get into the game and it’s not happening. Just some really basic things. I just want to make sure we are playing with a pace and with a passion that we’re seeing that’s only part of the game. It’s hard to win in this league, and it’s really hard if you don’t bring that level of intensity it takes to win possessions.”
Reeve determined that cutting bait with sunk costs was a better approach for this season than waiting to see if her team would be able to right the ship once Kayla McBride returned from overseas and Damiris Dantas recovered from a lingering Lisfranc injury. In what was a surprise to nearly everyone, McCoughtry was included in the flotsam.
“Minnesota is a great organization and a class act,” McCoughtry said via a comment released by Minnesota. “Thank you to Cheryl Reeve, the coaching staff, and my teammates for the opportunity to come to Minnesota. Although the organization has been very patient with my injury and helping me heal my body, sometimes it’s about what fits best for both parties. I believe in myself and I know I will be all the way back to perform at the highest level.”
Reeve took a significant gamble during the offseason by putting many eggs into the baskets of McCoughtry and Layshia Clarendon—$220,000 worth to be precise. As of May 12, neither athlete is on the roster and the Lynx suddenly appear to be facing the threat of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
In retrospect, the signings of McCoughtry and Clarendon were poor decisions as the roster is now left devoid of point guard depth and lacking veteran leadership beyond Sylvia Fowles. However, both transactions were based on sound logic. Clarendon helped Minnesota erase an 0-4 start last summer to earn a top-three seed and McCoughtry was once one of the most dominant forces in the league on both ends of the court for the majority of her career. Both addressed two of the Lynx’s biggest offseason needs—namely ball-handlers and veteran leaders—and were signed to help send Fowles off into retirement with a title. Unfortunately, things just didn’t work out. It happens.
There isn’t that much room for error in the WNBA. The season is comparatively short and opponents are flush with talent. Even the slightest mistake in roster construction—forced or unforced—or bad injury luck can transform a team from a contender to a pretender. The Lynx have suffered from both.
If there is a silver lining here it’s that the season is only 11% complete. Reeve and the Minnesota front office have plenty of time to re-configure the roster and reinforcements are coming. Minnesota’s top-end talent is still right up there with the WNBA’s best and their coaching staff is the elite of the elite. If any team can turn a devastating prairie fire into a land of blossoms and honey, it’s Minnesota.
They just have to go make it happen.
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.