Practice Report: Monday, June 25
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Free throws are often looked at as gimmes. When basketball players are able to hit contested shots from farther distances or while falling away, a straight shot at the basket from the stripe seems like easy points.
But even the defending champion Minnesota Lynx will tell you that’s not the case. Free throws, like anything else, are perfected through repetition. And while the Lynx are 12-1, they’re shooting 71.9 percent from the line as a team.
That’s why each member of the squad spent about 20 minutes after practice on Monday shooting 100 free throws at the LifeTime Fitness Training Center, writing down their made totals and trying to meet specific goals for each player. Guards Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Monica Wright have goals of 90 made free throws, while the rest of the team is shooting for 80.
Coach Cheryl Reeve said for a team like Minnesota, which has the type of perimeter players that can and should get points off free throws by driving to the basket and drawing fouls, shooting in the low 70s is unacceptable. She said it’s on the coaching staff to rectify that trend.
“It’s on me as a coach,” she said. “I think it’s all about how you approach it and probably to this point, I haven’t made it important enough. Because I think players do what you ask them to do, and their focus is where you ask it to be. So I have to take the blame for our lack of focus or our lack of understanding of how important it is.”
The Lynx shoot free throws every day after practice, but Monday’s emphasis was a bit different. During practice, they took select time outs during their half-court sets to let each player attempt shots from the line. Then after practice, the documented 100 shots took place.
For a team leading the league in offensive efficiency, Minnesota is lagging in the free throw department. The Lynx are first in the WNBA in points per game (84.6), field goal percentage (49.5 percent) and 3-point percentage (42.4 percent), but they’re second to last in free-throw percentage (71.9 percent).
Guard Candice Wiggins leads the team at 85.7 percent and Maya Moore is at 84.2, but no one else on the team cracks the 80 percent mark. Reeve said players like Whalen (77.3 percent) and Augustus (74.1 percent) should be 90 or above, and that’s the goal she’s giving both of them.
Looking back to the team’s playoff push a year ago, particularly Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s free throws that iced Game 3 of the WNBA finals in Atlanta, Reeve said hitting your shots at the line can be the difference between winning and losing.
“We’re just leaving points out there, especially at the end of games—that’s when you really have to make them,” Reeve said. “As a coach, you’re drawing up plays for Lindsay to get it and Seimone to get it. Right now they’re two of my lower free throw players. Even though every single time I would give thet ball to Lindsay or Seimone, because they’re clutch players.”
The key is addressing the issue and working to solve it. The Lynx put the work in Monday.
“It’s just as mental as putting,” Reeve said. “And from a consistency standpoint, you have to have the same routine, just like putting. Sometimes you can get too mental, just like putting. But just like anything else: You have repetition, you are preparing yourself to be successful. So that’s what we’re doing.”
Jess Adair update
Lynx center Jess Adair watched practice from the sidelines on Monday just days after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. Adair was on crutches and is expected to be sidelined until after the Olympic break.
“Everything I’ve heard has gone as planned,” Reeve said. “It’s not much now, just working on range of motion a little bit. But once she gets off the crutches and she starts doing more, then we’ll see how the swelling is responding. But I’d have to imagine she’s feeling a lot better now than she was a week ago, because she was hurting.”
Adair appeared in 10 games this season for the Lynx and is averaging 3.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 9.5 minutes per game. The surgery was performed by team orthopedist Joel Boyd, MD at TRIA Orthopedic Center in Bloomington.
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