With nearly a week off between games, in the wake of the Lynx’s worst start since 2010, coach Cheryl Reeve has gone back to the basics. She’s stressing the things the Lynx did while winning four WNBA titles in seven seasons — the things she isn’t seeing enough of during the team’s 3-6 start.
Publicly, she issued a challenge:
“We’re going to roll with the ones who have done this,” Reeve said. “We’ll ride or die, so to speak. Let the chips fall where they may.”
That includes tightening her rotation, returning Maya Moore to the small forward position almost exclusively.
The Lynx are ninth in the 12-team league, two days before they play host to the New York Liberty at Target Center. After losing at Connecticut on Saturday, the Lynx returned to the Twin Cities on Sunday. The players had Monday and Tuesday off. Starting Wednesday was what Reeve called a “mini-training camp.”
“A three-day training camp,” Reeve said. “Just don’t tell the players that. I didn’t use those two words together, ‘training’ and ‘camp.’ We know exactly how to win games. We know what has to be done. And we know we’re not getting it done. I can’t explain all the reasons for it. But we’re going to ensure that there are some really basic things we do well the next time we play a basketball game.”
Reeve then went on to suggest that all the players might not be putting the Lynx first.
“It’s not, ‘Minnesota Lynx No. 1,’ ” she said. “It’s like, 1A, and there is a B and C. That can’t happen. For this group it’s always been Minnesota Lynx No. 1. We didn’t share that spot with anything.”
And that might have bled onto the court. The team is missing layups, Reeve said. Free throws. Technical free throws. Concentration things — getting passes deflected, not being hard to play against on defense.
“Those are things that aren’t hard to change, but [you have to] recognize it’s a problem,” Reeve said. “Nobody has to have some magical analytics solution to it. It’s going back to the things this franchise has been built on, which is defending our tails off, rebounding the basketball and sharing the ball on offense.”
Asked immediately about Lindsay Whalen — who is juggling both playing and coaching— Reeve defended her point guard.
“She’s immersed in it,” Reeve said of Whalen’s coaching job at the University of Minnesota. “But when she’s here she does turn it off. I don’t think you can escape the idea of it being No. 1 and 1A, but that’s something we agreed to. And it’s not the root of our problem.”
To start with, Reeve is going basically eight deep in rotations, with Tanisha Wright and Danielle Robinson the top guards off the bench. The first big off the bench will either be Lynetta Kizer or Temi Fagbenle, depending on what’s needed.
“Every journey is different,” Seimone Augustus said. “The way we started is not the way we finish the season. I feel confident in my team that we’re going to be able to get it going.”
There is no question that seven years of dominance have bred seven years of teams chasing them with draft picks and development. The league has gotten better, of course. But Reeve believes she still has the players to finish near the top. The players who have always answered the challenges of an improving league need to do so again.
“I’m almost inclined to say it was lip service for our players this year,” she said. “That they thought they could just come back and do the same things and it would all come together. The league has put us on notice, and that’s what we talked about today. We’re either going to have a response to it, or we’re not. But I think this group has a lot in them. Has a lot of pride in them.”
And the Lynx now have a few days to return to basics. A crucial stretch of the season starts Saturday against the Liberty.
“Incredibly crucial,” Reeve said. “The time is now for the response. And if we don’t get a response starting Saturday, then I don’t know what we’re doing. Then maybe it’s just words. Maybe the will, the collective will, isn’t as strong. I don’t think that’s the case. But we’ll find out.”