Monday Practice Report: Youth Won’t be an Excuse

It was easy to forget just how young the Lynx are while they were racing to the front of the Western Conference on a 7-3 start and continuing their hot play after Seimone Augustus’ injury.

Only two players – Kelly Miller and Christi Thomas – have more than five years of WNBA experience. Only two of the players in the starting lineup – Miller and Nicky Anosike – have started the majority of games in their careers. And three members of the starting lineup are in their second season in the WNBA.

The team’s lack of experience might be thought of as a disadvantage, but veteran point guard Kelly Miller said she sees the team’s youthful energy as a reason for the Lynx’s early success.

“We’re a young team,” Miller said. “We also have a lot of energy and I think that’s shown in a lot of our games. Experience is always good. I think we come out and play hard with a lot of energy, so that’s good for us.”

While the lack of experience can lead to energetic play, it can also be a disadvantage as the season progresses.

Coach Jen Gillom said her team might have gotten a little too confident in its abilities in Thursday night’s disappointing loss to the Monarchs, where the team was outhustled on the boards and gave up 22 second-chance points. She said the team sometimes gets too excited about their runs and relaxes mentally entering some games.

Minnesota has used the last three days in practice to regain that edge they had, come back with a different mentality and work to make the next winning streak a much longer one. For Gillom, that is the next step this team must take.

“I think we’ll come out with a different mentality,” Gillom said. “I told them we need to get off this 3-0 kick. We need to go on a 5-0 run. I’m tired of the mental lapse after every three games. Hopefully this will be another start of a run and not a consecutive loss.”

With so few players who have been through the season-long grind and the late-season battles that will come as Minnesota gets entrenched in the race for the playoffs, Gillom said the team has relied on the experiences of Miller and Roneeka Hodges, who is in her fifth year in the league after four season now-defunct Comets.

Miller has started every game this year, but has not performed to her career averages this season – her 4.8 points per game is the lowest since her rookie season and her 2.6 assists per game is her lowest since 2005. But she has made up for it with leadership and help working with rookie Renee Montgomery.

Even Augustus is helping out from the sidelines to help the team focus and prepare for each game.

Still it is not excuse for poor play. Gillom said the team’s youth is not a crutch it can lean on if things do not go Minnesota’s way. The Lynx are at the top of the Western Conference for a reason and none of their opponents will baby them the rest of the way.

Even if there are still plenty of things the Lynx need to learn to reach the postseason and contend for a title.

“I think they do have mental lapses and get excited about the wins and tend to relax a little bit,” Gillom said. “They don’t understand that you have to come out and play hard no matter if it’s the first place team or the last place team. Any team can be beaten on any given night. I think that’s the only thing that they do have to learn is to maintain that consistency.

“It’s hard when you have a young team and I understand that. But I’m not going to let that be an excuse.”

Jen Gillom Audio
Jen Gillom talks about her team's mindset after Thursday's disappointing loss heading into Tuesday's game against the Mystics.

Kelly Miller Audio
Kelly Miller's veteran experience has helped a young Lynx team. But she says the Lynx's youth has also been a key to the team's early success.

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