Chip Scoggins
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A basketball player who once tangled and snarled and clashed with one of Minnesota’s most beloved athletes is now tasked with helping replace that beloved legend. That’s an ironic and interesting starting point for an introduction.

Odyssey Sims wants no part of that discussion, however. She answers a question about her connection to Lindsay Whalen by asking that their history not be revisited.

“That’s over and done with,” Sims said. “I’m here now in Minnesota. I am a Lynx.”

Sims refuses to budge an inch even with Whalen in retirement. Those two had fierce battles in recent years, symbolizing the nose-to-nose rivalry between the Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks.

Whalen’s flagrant foul on Sims in Game 4 of the 2017 WNBA Finals was meant to send a message. (It worked.) Those two exchanged shoves and angry stares in the 2018 season opener.

They will find themselves in a weird position on June 8 when the Lynx retire Whalen’s No. 13 in a game against Sims’ former team, the Sparks, who traded her to Minnesota in April.

“This is the happiest I’ve been since I’ve been in the league,” Sims said. “Every time I put on a Lynx jersey I smile.”

Strange times, indeed.

Sims smiling in a Lynx uniform reinforces that the organization is starting anew after a glorious run with its championship core. Sims figures to be an integral part of the new-look Lynx as a combo guard who can score, play stifling defense and exude the hard-nosed competitiveness that Whalen brought to every game.

“I can’t say enough how big of a get that was for us,” said coach Cheryl Reeve, who made the trade as the team’s general manager. “I do well with physically tough people who will put their body on the line to do things that matter in winning possessions. Odyssey does that. She plays so darn hard.”

Sims possesses Reeve’s ideal characteristics in a player. Tough, competitive, fearless. The Lynx also need her to fill a scoring void in the absence of Maya Moore.

Sims was a prolific scorer in college at Baylor and averaged 16 points in each of her first two WNBA seasons. Reeve discussed Sims’ role in their first meeting after the trade. Shoot the ball, Reeve said. Then keep shooting.

Reeve said there will be no such thing as a bad shot for Sims and that her “light is more than green.”

“Her eyes got big,” Reeve said.

Who’s wouldn’t? That kind of freedom and confidence would make any player excited.

“Not saying I can shoot every time I get the ball,” Sims said. “But just knowing I have a coach that’s going to let me play free and do what I do best, score.”

Sims led the Lynx in scoring in two preseason games coming off the bench. Whether Reeve keeps Sims as a reserve or eventually moves her into the starting lineup, her role won’t change. She needs to be a primary scorer to take pressure off center Sylvia Fowles.

“She feels free,” veteran Seimone Augustus said. “She feels like she has her wings now.

“Get back to those Baylor days where she was attacking the rim and being an efficient scorer.”

Sims has played for three teams in five WNBA seasons. She averaged a career-low 8.2 points with the Sparks last season and attempted 227 fewer shots than her rookie season in Tulsa.

She is embracing a fresh start. “I told Coach Reeve that I couldn’t be in a better situation,” she said.

Reeve wants Sims to become more efficient offensively. She’s a career 39% shooter, 27.4% from three-point range.

Other than that, Reeve wants her to feel loose on the court. Take chances and look for her shot, knowing her light is always green.

“The next phase of her career is going to be her prime,” Reeve said. “So we should get the very best of Odyssey.”

Chip Scoggins • chip.scoggins@startribune.com

Opening weekend in the WNBA

Friday: Opening night, two games

Saturday: Lynx opener, 7 p.m. vs. Chicago (FSN)