Web Editorial Associate
The Minnesota Lynx are 21-4 so far this season and one big reason for their success has been the performance of their bench players.
Natasha Howard, who was acquired in the offseason from the Indiana Fever, is one of those second-unit players that has really become a vital piece to this team.
The 24-year-old out of Florida State University is having the best season of her three year professional career, averaging 7.3 points on 60.3 percent shooting and 3.2 boards in only 14.5 minutes of play per game.
With the WNBA pushing the pause button on the season due to the Summer Olympics, Howard and the rest of the league’s non-Olympians have had the unique opportunity to work with their coaches on specific skills.
“Practice has been going good, since we have the break going on, we can work on our individual stuff and our plays even with the Olympians gone trying to win a Gold Medal,” Howard said. “Collectively we’re coming together and learning all of the plays over again before we start up again in a couple of weeks. I’m working on everything, kind of being like a stretch four, and trying to get my game developed more with more post moves, going through contact, and a more consistent jump shot.”
Before the Women’s National Team traveled to Brazil to compete in the Olympic Games, they took on the Women’s USA Select Team in a Showcase game, and boy oh boy was it a spectacle to watch.
The Olympians took on the brightest young stars in the league and it was one player from the Select team that stole the spotlight and put in a game-high 24 points. Who you ask… Natasha Howard.
“I definitely had fun, playing against the greatest players in the WNBA, helping them get ready for the Olympics and it was actually a pretty close game, so overall it was fun playing against the awesome Olympians and veterans,” Howard said.
The 6’3 Forward turned in a phenomenal performance and filled the stat sheet, ending the contest with 24 points while going 3-for-5 from deep, along with four boards, two steals and a block.
When it comes to possibly showcasing her 3-point range when the season resumes, Howard definitely thinks it’s a possibility.
“I haven’t really showed it, the last time I showed that was probably college,” Howard said. “I’m just taking it a day at a time, learning what Coach Pete’s telling me to do and being coachable, that’s all I’m trying to do.”
On top of the team’s success, so far this season the fifth overall selection in the 2014 draft is playing at an extremely high-level, tallying a 15.1 overall net rating while on the court.
“I think we’ve performed well but we still have some growing to do, we’ve got the second half of the season coming up,” Howard said. “Other than that we’re still growing as a team and I’m also still growing as an individual. “We’re happy that the Olympians are out there competing for a Gold Medal, but at the same time we’re here working on what we need to work on before they get back and before our first game against Connecticut.
Depth is important for every team to have, but it is crucial for a team who wants to make a deep run in the playoffs.
With the addition of a veterans like Jia Perkins and Janel McCarville, on top of potential up-and-coming stars like Howard and Keisha Hampton in the offseason, the Lynx sure look like a team that can bring home the 2016 WNBA Championship trophy.
“This is absolutely one of the deepest teams I’ve ever been on,” Howard said. “It’s going to help us along the way with Coach Reeve kind of putting a time limit on the older players; we feel pretty good about our team and we’re just trying to make sure that everyone stays healthy.