MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Lynx aren't going to let a slew of offseason roster changes and early-season injuries be reasons they don't put a consistently competitive product on the court every night.
This season might prove to be Cheryl Reeve's most challenging with the Lynx. It could also turn out to be one of the most rewarding if their recent play continues. Star Maya Moore took the season off to focus on family and ministry. Lindsay Whalen retired from playing after last season and is now the face, again, of the University of Minnesota women's basketball program.
Rebekkah Brunson battled concussion symptoms at the end of last season, and now is a new parent. There's no signs of her playing basketball any time soon. Seimone Augustus has yet to play after having preseason knee surgery.
Jessica Shepard and Karima Christmas-Kelly are both out for the season after suffering knee injuries.
Never mind all that. Thanks to Sylvia Fowles, Odyssey Sims and Napheesa Collier, the Lynx are currently 10-7 as they get near the All-Star break. That's fourth in the WNBA.
.@minnesotalynx Coach Cheryl Reeve on her team's 10-7 start despite injuries and an offseason roster overhaul:— Jeff Wald (@JeffWaldFox9) July 16, 2019
"They believe in themselves, they believe that they should win and they play really hard. That's a good combination." #LosLynx @FOX9 pic.twitter.com/nSJIbDFkHZ
"Somebody asked me what was special about this team. I said it was two things: 1) For whatever reason, I don't know if it's an edge and they want to prove something, but they do believe and they've had belief from the get-go. There's not been a second thought about ‘Ok, certain players aren't here.' The ones that are here have a hunger about them," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "And 2) this group plays really, really hard and we saw that before training camp started in pick-up games. This group plays so hard."
Fowles, currently second on the team in scoring at more than 14 points per game, said Tuesday it comes down to having a mindset. She also recently passed Lisa Leslie and has the most career double-doubles in the history of the WNBA. She's got 158 for her career, and 66 with the Lynx.
Many outsiders had 2019 pegged as a rebuilding year for the Lynx with all the roster shuffling. If somebody told the Lynx that, players and coaches didn't listen.
"It's a system thing. You come in here and if you don't think you're at the top of the best, then you don't belong here. So it's a mindset." Fowles said. "Cheryl don't let you settle either. You've got to come in with the right attitude, knowing that you're the it. I think we do a very good job of reminding each other that we are it."
Fowles has been named an All-Star six times, three with the Lynx. She says it's an honor and is happy to be heading to Las Vegas for the WNBA All-Star Game later this month. She also won't be doing it alone.
Guard Odyssey Sims, acquired in an offseason trade, found out last Saturday she was named a reserve for the All-Star Game. It's her first time being selected, and it was quite the gift on her 27th birthday.
"It's very special, I'm happy. Just being my first time, just kind of letting it all sink in right now. We definitely are looking forward to the weekend, those couple days in Vegas," Sims said. "I'm proud of Syl, double-double queen. Hard to guard 1-on-1, just everything. So I'm just excited that another teammate can go with me."
Sims has taken on more minutes and more of a scoring responsibility with the injury bug hitting several players early the season. She leads the Lynx in scoring at 15.7 points per game, and is averaging more than five assists per game.
It marks the eighth straight time the Lynx have sent multiple players to the All-Star Game.
"I always talk about timing, the timing of her being here put her in this position," Reeve said. "Opportunity, that's what it's about often times with players, but you have to seize the opportunity. I'm happy that it's worked out so well for her."
The Lynx are currently eighth in the WNBA in scoring at 76 points per game. Fowles, Sims and rookie Napheesa Collier combine to average 41.3 of those, or 54 percent of the team's scoring.
While most of the faces are new, the goals and the expectations for the Lynx remain the same. It's about winning. That's what happens when you've won four WNBA titles in nine seasons.
"Everybody knows this organization is a winning organization, so definitely give credit to the vets as well as Cheryl. They know how to get it done," Sims said.