When walking into Lynx practice on Sunday at Mayo Clinic Square, the first of the 2019 season, there were more than a few unfamiliar faces. In fact, there were more unfamiliar faces than familiar ones.
While there is still Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson, gone is Lindsay Whalen (retired), Maya Moore (will sit out 2019) and Rebekkah Brunson (still battling concussion-like symptoms from 2018).
New faces like Napheesa Collier, Odyssey Sims, Jessica Shepard and Lexie Brown are players Lynx fans will need to get to know, and fast.
“This is the most new-ness we’ve had since my first camp in 2010… There’s going to be a lot more teaching,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said after practice. “Things that were just a well-oiled machine, I could say something and people knew what I was talking about, this group has no clue.”
This is exciting. There’s no denying the success of Reeve’s previous regimes. You can’t argue with four titles. But those all came with veterans at the core. All great teams are forced to transition. Some are more graceful than others. That’s what the Lynx are looking for now. Turning the page to a new chapter in Lynx basketball and while it’s different, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. For Reeve, this training camp is about getting a group of new players on the same page and teaching them the Lynx way. That’s not something she’s had to do much of over the years with mostly the same core since 2011.
“It’s refreshing in some ways, you get to teach again,” Reeve said. “I don’t have to worry about doing less, I can do more. That’s refreshing and exciting at the same time.”
It’s been a while since Reeve has worked with a group of mostly young players. There’s Collier, Shepard and second-round pick Cierra Dillard. These players aren’t going to understand what it takes to win in the WNBA from Day 1. There will be some bumps in the road. Plays will break down. But Reeve is excited to mold them into players the Lynx need them to be, while learning on the run a bit herself about her players.
“A lot of people are worried about me, I don’t have many veterans, they’re worried I’m going to break out in hives and maybe not make it through the season,” Reeve said. “I hope that I can be an amoeba in whatever the team needs, whatever year it is, whatever is asked for, whatever is needed of me, I hope I can be that. This calls for something different. I’ll work really hard to make sure I’m teaching and helping along with the young ones. I did what that group was at that time, this is a different time in our franchise. I hope I can be that amoeba.”
It marks Reeve’s 10th year as head coach for the Lynx. Time flies and we’ve seen the primes of players come and go. But Reeve’s attention to detail and coaching prowess remains. It’s a new challenge that she hasn’t had to deal with during her career, but it’s something that she is looking forward to and is clearly by design considering she’s also the team’s GM.