The Minnesota Lynx’s dynasty was abruptly halted by real life.
They have had the worst record ever by any WNBA team in history. Things are so bad as of recently that their coach feels relief even if their team loses, but does so competitively.
Cheryl Reeve, the coach and general manager of the Lynx, expressed some relief late on Tuesday night after her team lost to Seattle at home despite playing with competitive fire and teamwork. The Lynx have played so poorly this season.
That was a startling revelation coming from a coach who has led Team USA and won four WNBA championships. Her professional success is not based on moral triumphs.
Due to a knee injury, the Lynx are now playing without center Sylvia Fowles, one of the best players in women’s basketball history. They were losing games even with Fowles producing at an incredibly high level in her last season, which is harmful to their aspirations.
Why is the once-famous Lynx in such bad shape? The answer can be as easy as subtracting.
Their reign came to an end when Maya Moore, formerly often called the top player in the world, retired to focus on social problems. Star forward Napheesa Collier’s pregnancy prevented them from competing in 2022.
The longest active streak in the league and second-longest in WNBA history, they have made the playoffs in 11 straight seasons.
How a team performs with their best players on the field and how a team succeeds without them are the two metrics used to assess a player’s value. Collier scores highly in both categories.
She may be the only underappreciated Olympian in basketball. She is also the finest player for the Lynx in her prime.
The Lynx benefit from Collier’s scoring, passing, defense, regaining, and positional diversity. She can get her shot off against practically anyone at any time thanks to her long arms and high release. She complements Fowles and the Lynx’s perimeter scorers well because of her selflessness.
In the absence, Collier might be viewed more favorably. Maybe the Lynx’s near future isn’t doomed if she’s this valued. Maybe her reappearance will help her side regain their lost form.
“How much do we miss Phee?” Reeve said. “I would say: immensely. We miss Phee the person, and who she is when she’s around us, and what she brings out of other people. She has the ability to connect with other people in a very natural way.
“She loves the franchise, loves practicing, loves being a Lynx and the responsibility that goes with that, and being a great player for the Lynx.
“We have some players that are exposed without Phee. That would be true for any team, when you take a player of that caliber out. Then everybody else is charged with doing a little bit more, and some people can and some people can’t.
“The game comes easy for her. She plays really hard. She trusts — trusts in our culture, and her teammates — and those things are contagious. That’s a pretty big void, without her.”
Collier has achieved the Rookie of the Year honor, All-Star status, and Olympic team selection in three WNBA seasons.
If she is able to heal after giving birth in time, she might appear again later this season. She wants to compete in the World Cup in September and is a member of Team USA.