It’s been more than a month since the Lynx last played a regular-season game. While Minnesota fans were celebrating the contributions of the Lynx members of the gold medal USA women’s basketball team — Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles plus coach Cheryl Reeve — in the Rio Olympics, the remaining Lynx players stayed behind in relative obscurity, resting and practicing. And waiting.
The Lynx, owning a six-game winning streak and the second-best record in the WNBA at 21-4, return to play Friday night at Connecticut, then return home Sunday against Seattle.
The two-plus weeks of midseason training camp for the non-Olympians is over.
“As players, that’s all we want to do typically is play games,” said guard Renee Montgomery. “That’s what Allen Iverson was taking about with his famous quote ‘You’re talking about practice?’ To be honest, practice isn’t always fun, but I think we made it fun. And I think we got better.”
The acquisition of guard Anna Cruz, announced on Thursday, could be another boost for the Lynx. Cruz played an important role off the bench in their run to the 2015 championship.
Cruz, 29, helped Spain win the silver medal in the Olympics.
“I’m excited to bring her back,” Moore said. “She’s a joy to have on the team, with her super energy and the way she approaches the game.”
Most of the players got some significant time off during the Olympic break — “I think I went home to West Virginia four times,” Montgomery said — but also spent a large chunk of their break practicing and working on specifics under the tutelage of assistant coach Jim Petersen.
Reeve said she doesn’t expect any ill effects from the layoff. In fact, she believes the team may be better because of it.
“I think the players from Rio have looked exceptionally good,” she said. “And in just the couple of days I’ve been back, I can see how the players who stayed have improved and what they’ve worked on. They put in some valuable time.”
If there was a concern, it’s that teams like Connecticut have a roster that’s rested and ready. In 2012, the Lynx had three players on the Team USA roster and won nine consecutive games coming out of the Olympic break. But they faltered in the WNBA finals, falling to Indiana in four games.
Will the oldest team in the WNBA have enough left in the tank to maintain a high level of play? Reeve doesn’t think it will be an issue.
“We didn’t run our Olympians into the ground over there. We played them in a way they could be productive,” Reeve said.
“Whatever advantage [other teams] might hold, I think we’ve neutralized it because we have four players in game shape and game rhythm that happen to be Olympians.”
Moore said on a conference call Thursday that her 2012 Olympic experience taught her the importance of preparing for a long season.
“I think I’ve got a better understanding of the rhythm of this pro life,” Moore said. “I approached this season older and wiser and a little more efficient.”
She added that the team around her makes a difference.
“It helps having a deeper team at this point of the season, too.”
A change to the WNBA’s postseason format, in which the top two teams in the league get byes to the semifinals while the remaining six play single-elimination games to determine the semifinals matchups, makes the Lynx’s final nine regular-season games much more crucial.
“It’s a sprint to the finish,” Reeve said. “No easing back in. Any team that eases in will be looking up in the standings.”