Friday night, the Lynx opened the season in Seattle, against the best player in the world in Breanna Stewart, and what might be the league’s best team. Seattle won 97-74.
Sunday night, the Lynx will open their home schedule against Washington, another recent champion capable of winning another title.
Ever since Lynx boss Cheryl Reeve and team owner Glen Taylor decided not to rebuild following the departure of most of their championship-caliber stars, the Lynx have been remarkably competitive but have not exactly been a title contender. In their only return to the WNBA semifinals, they were swept by eventual champion Seattle.
The Lynx have, though, refused to rebuild and insisted on competing. They have made the playoffs a record 11 straight times, even in those seasons when they reinvented themselves on a weekly basis.
They will be reinventing themselves on a nightly basis early this season. Friday night, the players who didn’t play — Napheesa Collier, Kayla McBride, Angel McCoughtry and Damiris Dantas — might have been better than the team that took the court.
Collier, the team’s best player still in her prime, is pregnant and may not play this season. McBride, the team’s best shooter, is playing overseas. McCoughtry, one of the greatest players of all time, is dealing with a sore knee. Dantas, one of the keys to the Lynx team that made the semifinals in 2020, is recovering from an injured foot.
So Reeve started longtime bench player Rachel Banham and point guard Yvonne Turner, who had been cut a few days previously before being re-signed, along with Sylvia Fowles, Aerial Powers and Jess Shepard.
Even if the Lynx had upset Seattle, that lineup would not be long for the world. The Lynx’s eventual lineup will probably be Fowles, McBride, Powers, McCoughtry and perhaps Odyssey Sims, who was a street free agent when the Lynx released presumptive starting point guard Layshia Clarendon and backup Crystal Dangerfield.
The Lynx’s incomplete roster and flurry of moves provide a reminder of just how important luck is in sports.
Tom Brady, thought to be the greatest quarterback of all time, just admitted that he might have fumbled on the play that made famous the “tuck rule.” If his apparent fumble had been ruled as such on that play, Brady and Belichick not only wouldn’t have won that first Super Bowl together — Brady might have returned to his backup role behind Drew Bledsoe. Who knows if Brady would have been given the opportunity to develop into a superstar if that had happened?
To move from the macro to the micro, the Wild played horribly in Game 1 of their playoff series and struggled to get a shot on net early in Game 2. Then a Blues player broke his stick, leading to an easy Wild goal, and since then, the Wild has dominated the series.
The Lynx lucked into the first pick in the 2011 draft, which became Maya Moore, who became the most spectacular player on four championship teams.
Now the Lynx are finding luck in short supply. If Collier were available, and Clarendon had been able to get healthy, the Lynx might have one of the league’s deepest rosters. Instead, they have to hope that McCoughtry and Fowles, at advanced ages, can reprise their former greatness, and that Sims, who was not on a WNBA roster, can reprise her all-star form, and… well, they have to hope for a lot.
Reeve was a point guard and she relied heavily on a Hall of Fame point guard, Lindsay Whalen, during the championship years. Since Whalen’s retirement, Reeve has searched for excellence and dependability at the position, finding it in short spurts, but she is not guaranteed to ever have another franchise point guard who can carry her vision to the court.
Last year, the Lynx lost their first four games, yet finished the season 22-10.
This could be another slow start and it is unlikely to be a championship finish, but the Lynx tend to figure things out. Sometime between Sunday and the end of June, their moving parts will align, and they will make the playoffs yet again.