Minnesota Starting Off On Right Foot
The Lynx aren’t feeling the pressure.
by Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
The Minnesota Lynx have had a buzz around them for months now. After a season last year when their high expectations derailed by injuries, the Lynx were fortunate enough to win the draft lottery. Of course, the prize of the WNBA draft was Maya Moore, who finally was on the court with her new teammates Sunday as the team kicked off their training camp for the 2011 season.
“It’s always great to have other great players around you and Maya is definitely a great player and is going to be a great player in this league,” said Seimone Augustus. “She’s very competitive, you can tell that from jump. Even today, we went through a little simulation—three-on-three, four-on-four—and the competition level was at a whole other level. We felt like we were playing in an actual game, a playoff game or something like that and it’s always a plus. This team has a lot of expectations, pressure and everything else you can think of on us, so with her being here some of that pressure won’t be as heavy because of the expectations she will be able to deal with that, as well as us. We’ll all be able to handle it.”
With a roster already full of All-Star caliber players, Moore’s presence on the team creates many positive issues for the team. A majority of the roster can play multiple positions, allowing head coach Cheryl Reeve the opportunity to tinker with lineups constantly. With how deep the roster stands, there should always be a fun mix of high quality players on the court at all times.
“I’ve been smiling for a few months now,” said Reeve. “The whole thing with Maya, the excitement of her doing the interviews and all, that wasn’t really that much fun for me. Today is fun for me, actually having her in uniform, running around screens and doing things. Coaches are excited and we just have a lot of weapons to work with and it’s just great to be on the court together.”
With only a little over a week until the Lynx first preseason game and two-and-a-half weeks until the regular season tips off, they don’t have time to move slowly. As a rookie—even a rookie with her resume—Moore is utilizing her time well to adjust to the next level.
“It’s a lot more physical,” said Maya Moore. “Everybody’s bigger. You can’t take as many chances because they’ll execute and burn you if you gamble too much, so it’s a little bit of an adjustment, but I’m excited for the challenge.”
“I love practice,” continued Moore. “I mean, at Connecticut you have to love practice otherwise you’re not going to make it. Any time it’s a time to get together and compete, I love putting the work in and practice, so when game time comes, I’m super-confident.”
One of the most important factors for the Lynx this season is the ability to stay healthy. Starting training camp with all of their players on time—many players report late due to overseas commitments— and healthy, Minnesota is starting off the season on the right foot.
“It’s huge,” said Reeve. “It’s just huge in that your planning purposes, you’ve got the players in there that are actually going to be executing the plays. We spent the better part of two weeks last year with players that weren’t going to be with us. I can’t tell you how much of a factor that is for us to develop some continuity, some flow to what we’re doing and just familiarity. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The longest-tenured Lynx player agrees with her head coach.
“It’s a major plus,” adds Augustus. “That team chemistry, that team bond that we always talk about, we’ll be able to capture that in the next 14 days before our first preseason game. We’ll have, at least, some chemistry going into the season, which is a plus and something we’ve always struggled with. We’ve been like, ‘ok, we have to get the chemistry going or people coming in,’ so it’s a great thing to have everyone here and not have to worry about that.”
With the limited time before the season begins, as well as the short length of the regular season itself, getting off to a good start is imperative for any team striving for big things.
“I think it’s one of those things that we all hope to do, all twelve teams hope to do,” said Reeve. “I think that having a full training camp, all the players here, putting the plays in, I think it gives you a better chance at it. I know for us, as the Lynx organization, it is important that we win every game that we play early because you know you want to develop that swag. The only way you can help with swag is if you win. Whether we’re preseason games or whether we’re scrimmaging the guys, our goal is to win and that’s going to be important.”
There were already great expectations for the team prior to landing Moore—and lost in the media hype around Moore is Amber Harris, the 4th pick in the draft—but now, the buzz and excitement is palpable. Yet, while media members focus on the expectations and supposed pressure on the team, they feel the polar opposite.
“Only you guys call it pressure,” said Reeve, referring to media members. “For us, it’s exciting. We know that if we work hard, we execute and we compete, the W’s will take care of themselves. I think that’s the most important thing. You guys will talk about the pressure. We’re just looking to have fun.”
Yet before the fun can begin, the team must put in the work during training camp. With so many leaders on this team, the Lynx are starting the 2011 season off on the right foot.
“It’s time to get to work, it’s time to get back on the court and play the game I love and that all of us love, so it’s a great time of year,” said Moore after being the final player to step off the practice court.
The Minnesota Lynx preseason games are May 24 and May 31. The regular season tips off June 3 in Los Angeles and their home opener is June 5.