Full Speed Ahead
Should you have wandered down to Target Center's practice facility Tuesday afternoon, you'd have seen a great deal of sweat equity being put in by the 2007 edition of the Minnesota Lynx. Running, jumping, boxing out, cutting, popping up on the pick and roll...you name it. It was all being done fast.
"Everything we do, we do full speed," said new head coach Don Zierden.
That should be among the biggest differences between this year's squad and last, with the addition of Coach Z's philosophy and some talented, explosive young players like No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks Lindsey Harding and Noelle Quinn.
"To have that young energy with the veterans we have is a good mixture," said five-year forward Tamika Raymond (formerly Tamika Williams). "I think because our rookies are so good and athletic, it'll only make our team better."
That said, the focus early in camp appears to be defense and conditioning.
"When we broke down last year's Lynx season, we were in the bottom five in a lot of things, and one of those was defense," said Zierden. "We gave up the most points of anyone in the league. I think that's where you start, and then obviously conditioning. They have to get their legs under them, so you want to do some running."
"I like it because it's up and down, and we're really pushing the ball," added Williams. "Coach Z is emphasizing the small things: getting out on pick and rolls; boxing out on every possession; and all playing defense the same way."
To play defense at the professional level, it's paramount to keep your opponent in front of you, Zierden said. At the same time, it's important to know that someone has your back, so defensive rotation and help-side defense will be major points of emphasis throughout training camp. That, and aggression.
"One of the first things we did as a coaching staff is to watch every film from last season," Z explained. "The biggest thing we noticed is that other teams set the tone. They were the aggressor game in and game out. We're trying to get the mindset where we're going to be the aggressor."
But so far, there has been plenty of aggression on the practice court. The rookies -- Harding, Quinn, Eshaya Murphy, Brooke Smith, Kathrin Ress and Navond Moore -- are all over the place, and the veterans know they have to really pick their collective game up just to make the team. Raymond said she's just as nervous as the rookies must be, having to learn a new system under a new coach, and to prove herself like everyone else.
Accordingly, if the first few days of camp are any indication of what's to come, the collective energy level should be the least of the coaching staff's concerns.
"I don't think anyone on the staff will have a problem with the effort," concluded Z.