For the first time since training camp started a week ago, the Minnesota Lynx got to practice against someone other than themselves.
After a brief warmup, the Lynx went to another gym on the campus of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and held a scrimmage with Las Vegas Monday morning.
As expected, there was some good and some bad. And it was necessary. The coronavirus-induced bubble has forced the training camp portion of the WNBA season to be shortened. There are fewer practices and no preseason games.
And, given the pandemic delayed the start of the season for so many weeks, Reeve said coaches around the league were concerned what kind of condition the players would be after the layoff and a short camp.
Add to that the fact that none of the teams have men’s teams to practice against, something each team normally does during camp and throughout the season in practices. Coaches – some of whom have shortened rosters because of injuries or the virus – have been loathe to overwork the players or subject them to too much pounding. At the same time, the players need to get into shape for this weekend’s openers.
“We just have to start going up and down [the court],’’ Reeve said. “We’re about to be on national TV this weekend, as a league. We’ll be ready to play a game, because they’re tired of practicing. But it will be a challenge, physically [for some teams].’’
Not surprisingly, the workout had both good and bad, with some highlights on offense. But Reeve also said she came away from the scrimmage knowing the team had a ways to go before Sunday's opener.
Here were some of Reeve’s takeaways from the scrimmage:
--Despite the conditioning concerns, Reeve – who has had her full compliment of 12 players available from the start of camp – said she was pleasantly surprised with the conditioning level the players were in when camp started, especially considering the layoff.
--Reeve was most pleased with her team’s willingness to share the ball, how well the best shot was identified, how rarely she felt a shot was forced. “I thought that was really good,’’ she said. “Our execution at times was good.’’
--Having said that, Reeve said she thought the team, especially on offense, could have played at a quicker pace, describing her team as lackluster. “I thought we’d fly around a little more on offense.’’ Expect that to be addressed in the film study.
--As expected, veteran guard Shenise Johnson has emerged as a very important part of the team’s backcourt. A versatile combo guard, Reeve said she hopes Johnson – coming of two seasons shortened by knee injuries – would be able to play about 25 minutes a game. Johnson, Reeve said, is the team’s best initiator of the offense, the best guard in the pick-and-roll game.
--With Johnson as the primary initiator of the offense, that will allow Lexie Brown and Rachel Banham to do other things like space the floor. Reeve did say the backcourt had a ways to go defensively.
--Not surprisingly, rookies Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Crystal Dangerfield have, as Reeve said, a ways to go. “We knew it [would be the case},’’ Reeve said. “It’s a process for Kiki and for Crystal.’’