Neal: Lynx facilities an added bonus for McCoughtry

La Velle’s 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions on Sundays.

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Angel McCoughtry played one game for Atlanta during the 2019 season because she tore multiple ligaments in her left knee. She recovered and had a productive 2020 for the Las Vegas Aces, but she then tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee last year and again played in just one game.

She figures she’s in good hands with the Lynx as she recovers from the second knee surgery because of the team’s connection with Mayo Clinic.

“I mean what better place coming off an injury to be?” McCoughtry said. “At a place that has the best facilities in the league, you know. I just pop around the corner and see the doctor.”

The five-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympian didn’t sign with the Lynx in February only because of the facilities. After all, she will now get a chance to play with fellow Olympian Sylvia Fowles, who has announced that this will be her 15th and final season. But the facilities weren’t an afterthought, either.

Few WNBA teams share facilities with their NBA partners. The Lynx use the same courts at Mayo Clinic Square — a modern, sleek training center — as the Timberwolves. Players throughout the league notice things like that.

McCoughtry thought she was going to return to Las Vegas this season. But the Aces hired Becky Hammon, who was fresh off a long stint as Gregg Popovich’s assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, and McCoughtry ended up not being the right fit. She had some teams interested in her but decided to play for Cheryl Reeve while taking advantage of the top facilities.

“So as I weighed all my options, I had to look at where I could be successful coming off another injury and who still believed in me that I can do what I can do on the court,” McCoughtry said. “And Cheryl was the perfect person.”

McCoughtry, 35, has averaged 18.7 points, five rebounds and three assists in her career. She averaged 14.4 points in 2020 for the Aces, her last full season. When the season begins May 6, McCoughtry will take the floor with a Lynx roster that has title aspirations because of players like Fowles. Additional scoring punch is needed, as Napheesa Collier, who led the Lynx at 16.2 points per game last season, is having a baby next month and the timing of her return is uncertain.

McCoughtry also loves ice cream and owned a shop in Atlanta. She would like to hook up with a Twin Cities parlor and invent a flavor. She has not searched for one yet, opting to remain in her apartment until it gets warmer. Good luck with that.

On cue, she was asked if she was having food delivered instead of going out. And she pointed out another advantage to being with the Lynx.

“Because we have our own private chef, I don’t do much ordering out,” she said. “Most teams don’t have a private chef, so I’m making use of that luxury.”

Just missed on Miggy

Miguel Cabrera reached 3,000 career hits Saturday, so it is time to remember when the Detroit Tigers star was the most feared slugger in baseball and an RBI machine. Cabrera also represents one of the Twins’ biggest regrets.

A Twins scout saw Cabrera as a 14-year-old in Venezuela and wanted to sign him on the spot. But international prospects can’t sign until they turn 16, so the Twins spent the next two years maintaining a great relationship with the family. But when it was time to sign, their offer was too short, and Cabrera inked a deal with the Florida Marlins in 1999 for $1.8 million.

It was a franchise-altering decision. Cabrera could have batted between a young Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and led the Twins to postseason success before being traded for a haul of players that could have helped them sustain more success. Instead, his Hall of Fame career began in Miami.

Darrisaw rising

Left tackle Christian Darrisaw, once he got on the field, posted a 71.8 rating on Pro Football Focus last year, which is a great launching point into the Vikings’ 2022 season.

After recovering from a pair of core muscle surgeries, Darrisaw made 10 starts. The talent was evident, and the Vikings appear to have that position settled for the next several years. Darrisaw reported for workouts this month believing that he belongs.

“Anything I do, I try to stay positive and never doubt myself,” Darrisaw said. “I know I’m here for a reason, and I’m going to give my all.”

Darrisaw is powerful and athletic. His run blocking already is strong. He needs more experience in pass blocking; he gave up 11 pressures in two starts against Green Bay alone. Going up against pass-rushing savants in Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith in practice should aid his development.

… AND TWO PREDICTIONS …

Wild at home?

The Wild will split their last two games of the regular season, which should be enough for them to clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, against St. Louis.

Big Mike knocked around?

Michael Pineda shut out the Yankees for five innings in his Tigers debut on Thursday. His next start will be against the Twins at Target Field but he will struggle against his former team.

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