MINNEAPOLIS - Crystal Dangerfield admittedly carried a chip on her shoulder for most of her rookie season with the Minnesota Lynx.
Largely overlooked in last year’s WNBA Draft, the Lynx got Dangerfield in the second round for what was supposed to be guard depth at the time. Little did Dangerfield know that for a variety of reasons, she’d be the team’s primary ball-handler in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Fla.
Dangerfield, a former UConn standout, ended up starting 19 of 21 regular season games, leading the Lynx to another appearance in the WNBA Playoffs. She ended up leading the Lynx in scoring at 16.2 points per game. Dangerfield added 3.6 assists, shot 47 percent from the field and played 30 minutes per game.
The result? She was the WNBA Rookie of the Year. She was ready for the bigger role when the Lynx needed her.
"There’s no question that helped her. She wants it, that’s the role that she wants to play. She waited for her time, and her time came quick. Overall she has a really healthy appreciation for her game," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said Monday at training camp. "She knows what to do, when to do it, incredibly coachable."
Even though she’s now only in her second year, she’s one of the veterans on a team trying to mesh experience, young talent and new faces. The chip on her shoulder remains, because now she can’t hide from the rest of the league.
"Still thinking that there’s doubt that I can do what I did last year. There’s self-motivation, not wanting to let myself down, not wanting that to just be a one-year thing, letting it be something I can continue to build on and help my team win," Dangerfield said.
Being named the league’s top rookie was an honor, but Dangerfield is still salty about how last season ended. After beating the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Playoffs, the Lynx proceeded to drop three straight to Seattle Storm and lose the best-of-five series.
"Last year I was not happy with the way we left the bubble, and I took a lot of responsibility for that series with Seattle. I just want to be a player that my teammates can rely on, my coaches can expect a lot from me," Dangerfield said.
The Lynx are just three days into training camp, but there’s already a sense of urgency for Reeve. Their first game is set for May 14 against the Mercury at Target Center, and the team has started camp without two of their key pieces.
Napheesa Collier, who averaged 16 points and nine rebounds in 34 minutes per game last season, just finished winning a championship with her overseas team in France. Collier, the 2019 Rookie of the Year, has to fly back to the Twin Cities, go through COVID-19 testing and quarantine before she can start working out with the Lynx.
The same goes for free agent acquisition Kayla McBride, who is in the playoffs with her team in Turkey. The Lynx signed McBride, a three-time WNBA All-Star, to be a leader in the backcourt. The Lynx open the regular season two weeks from Friday, and as it stands, Reeve doesn’t know if she’ll have Collier or McBride available.
"We haven’t gotten great news on that front. What’s happening in Europe has not been to our favor. Right now we’re really pushing it because of the WNBA protocols when they return for her to be back in time for the first game. For Napheesa, same thing," Reeve said. "I would say not happy in either situation, but we deal with it and hopefully when they get back, we can drop them right in and be an even better team."
For the players who are available and at Mayo Clinic Square with the Lynx, training camp continues this week.