September 24, 2023 

The Minnesota Lynx’s wild ride comes to an end

Reeve, Collier, reflect on the growth of the Minnesota Lynx in 2023

The 25th season of Minnesota Lynx basketball came to an end on Wednesday night after a four-month roller coaster through the regular season and the first round of the WNBA Playoffs. A season of peaks and valleys, with some pretty exciting highs and some pretty disappointing lows. From an 0-6 start to hosting a do-or-die playoff game against the Connecticut Sun, the Lynx were many things in the summer of 2023, but they were never boring.

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Wednesday night’s game specifically may have been the perfect microcosm for this team. The collective toughness and grit were on full display. Napheesa Collier’s brilliance was undeniable. Minnesota’s home crowd proved it hadn’t lost its touch despite last season’s playoff hiatus, and the Connecticut Sun were just too good for the Lynx to pull off the upset.

Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner, and sensational shooting from Tyasha Harris kept the Sun in control of the night from the opening tip. Collier and the rest of the Lynx sparked enough runs to keep the crowd in it throughout, but couldn’t muster the firepower to ever truly break through and grab a lead. The Lynx may not have looked like WNBA champions against Connecticut, but they did look like a team that climbed miles above their starting point.

“It’s always hard to have the end-of-season conversation in the locker room,” Lynx head coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve said after the game. “Overall, I’m super proud of the team and (their) effort. We certainly wanted them to feel victory in closing out a series, but it doesn’t take anything away from what this team has gone through. The number of players that we had have a couple injuries, people (needing) to play out of position, that sort of thing, and they just kept battling. And I just told them how much I appreciate it.”

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As Reeve and the Lynx turn the page to this offseason, the emphasis and the growth of a team that not only took several steps forward this season but also did plenty to wash away the bad taste lingering from last season’s failure to reach the playoffs. 

“I really wanted to make sure it was said, because I certainly said it last year when I didn’t have as much fun, but this team was super fun to coach,” Reeve said. “They were fun to coach because as a coach you like to teach. That was the frame of mind that we went into the season with, it was a growth season. We want to, as coaches, don’t focus on outcomes. Focus on teaching, and giving, and building a foundation.

“I told them this, at every turn whenever we coach them or ask them to do something, that they try their very best. As a coach, as a teacher, that’s what’s the most rewarding part of what we do.”

By giving it their very best, the Lynx showcased some of the building blocks of a sturdy foundation they’ll take into 2024 and beyond. Most notably, the highly anticipated return of Napheesa Collier, who returned from her pregnancy to earn all-star honors, played her way into the MVP conversation, as well as a WNBA All-Defensive Second Team nod for the second time in her career. 

“I feel like I pushed a lot of mental barriers this year, aggression-wise,” Collier said after the Game 3 loss to Connecticut. I had to push a lot in the offseason, physically, and I think it made me tougher. I was proud of the way I was able to come back this season because it definitely wasn’t easy. It was a lot of hard work, like the hardest rehab I’ve ever done. I want to continue to grow into next year and take the mentality that I have and keep it on for the rest of my career.” 

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In addition to Collier’s sensational performance this season, Kayla McBride had her finest season as a Lynx and earned an extension through the 2025 season. Minnesota’s dynamic duo of rookies in Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász will certainly be All-Rookie selections and will enter next season with sky-high expectations.

Veterans Tiffany Mitchell and Jessica Shepard are the only other players officially on the Lynx’s books for next season, so another big and important offseason is on deck in Minnesota. The questions of who may or may not be coming back and who is coming in will be answered over the coming months.

Exactly how much growth towards becoming a championship contender took place in 2023 will only become clear over time. But there’s plenty of optimism within the organization that the steps taken in 2023 are aimed in the right direction.

“I’m really proud of what our team has done this year and the growth that we’ve had,” Collier said. “I’m excited to see the steps that we take even more next year because it is a learning experience. We have people—two rookies, Tiff [Mitchell] coming in from Indiana—who haven’t been in this situation a lot, so it is a learning curve and I’m proud of our effort.”

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

1 Comment

  1. RM Williams on September 24, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    Here’s my exit comment for this season.
    As everyone has said, it was an up and down season. The lack of consistency was often mystifying, and sometimes we fans wondered “who is this team?” Two good final home games, and two lackluster final road games. A blowout loss, a decent win, and then a sad loss in the playoffs. A season of injuries, like every team, and a season of people stepping up, albeit inconsistently. Is there a decent foundation? Yes, there is. Collier, McBride, Juhász, Miller, and Mitchell. Why do I not put Shepard on this list? Too many games missed, and spotty production. Is Shepard a possibility for a trade? I would think so, depending upon her health. So that’s what the Lynx have on paper.
    Now, everyone else. Powers has been rather vocal about playing elsewhere next season. I’d say that’s a good bet. Given Achonwa’s first two rather unproductive seasons, my guess is that will be an open slot. Milic has had moments, and she could be attractive to another team to bolster the bench. Lindsay Allen proved to be a reliable point guard, but is she a starting point guard? With some excellent free agent and draft possibilities, could Allen be relegated to the bench and would she take that? Hard to say. Natasha Cloud is a free agent, Jordin Canada is a free agent, and both of these players could provide a more dynamic starting point guard. In the draft, the likelihood of Caitlin Clark, should she declare, is about zero. Paige Bueckers? Probably not. Then there is Georgia Amoore, the dynamic guard from Virginia Tech, the Hustling Hokie. There is someone worth looking at very seriously. Now, we have Bridget Carleton. Has her shooting been up to par? No. However, she is an excellent defender, plays hard, and her energy never lags. Does she hit important shots? Yes, just not enough of them. I’m really on the fence here. And finally, Rachael Banham. I’m not really sure what Banham’s role is on this team. Not a point guard, not a starter, and generally not a big contributor. Prone to bad passes. When she takes the ball down court, she’s looking for her shot, not THE shot. Rachael is a fan favorite, probably from her days at the University of Minnesota, but that’s a long time ago, and doesn’t translate to the professional arena. In my estimation, Rachael is never going to get any better, so my question is, do they re-sign her in hopes of more production, or do they move on and invest in either a rookie with great potential or a proven free agent? My vote is wish her well, enjoy being an assistant at the U. of M, and move on.
    Fortunately, maybe, I don’t run the circus. But I have renewed my season ticket, because I think Coach Reeve and GM Claire Duwelius will be extremely prudent in their decisions. Whatever happens, I will sit in the stands at every home game and probably a few road games and cheer on this team. There’s a bright future. Let’s all hope that this season was only the beginning.

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