Historic happenings in sports rarely need a reminder.
There will be a countdown all over Twitter to someone’s big moment, a team’s milestone or something else worth celebrating.
Saturday’s All-Star Game might have been one of those things that went under the radar. For the second time in team history, the Lynx had four players in the All-Star Game. The team also had three starters (Rebekkah Brunson replaced Mercury center Brittney Griner in the lineup) and was coached by the team’s coaching staff.
That’s pretty impressive no matter what the situation.
The Lynx didn’t have the game’s MVP (Candace Parker of LA led the way with 23 points , 11 rebounds and three assists), but it was still a successful day as the West won 102-98 and every Lynx player positively impacted the game.
Maya Moore led Minnesota scorers with 14 points to go along with five rebounds. Seimone Augustus scored 12 while shooting 6-of-10 from the field. Rebekkah Brunson (wait for it…) had a double-double (shocker), finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Lindsay Whalen finished with eight points off the bench in 13 minutes of action.
I know it’s “just” an All-Star Game, but to these players and coaches, it’s a testament of how hard they’ve worked. Congrats to them.
Now, as promised, let’s break down what has jumped out at us in the first half of the season:
Tulsa and Phoenix? Too hyped perhaps?
Coming into the season, it was all about the “Three To See.” Griner, the No. 1 pick, was selected by the Phoenix Mercury, while Skylar Diggins (No. 3 overall) was chosen by the Tulsa Shock.
Both players were supposed to turn their respected teams into Western Conference contenders.
Well, that hasn’t gone exactly according to plan.
Phoenix sits at 9-9, good for third place in the West, 5.5 games back from the Lynx (14-3) for first place. They have also lost five games against the Lynx. It’s the second straight season in which Minnesota has swept the Mercury.
Griner is averaging 14.9 point, 6.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. Those numbers are respectable, but I think many fans had higher expectations for Griner. Expectations that were probably unrealistic in the first place, but expectations nonetheless.
Tulsa is just 6-14, sitting in last place in the West even with the addition of Diggins. Out of the “Three to See”, Diggins has struggled to adjust her game to the WNBA the most.
She’s averaging 7.9 points and a respectable 4.3 assists per game, but is connecting on just 30.7 percent of her shots from the field and just 20.9 from the 3-point line. There are also times when the team looks more comfortable without her on the court. Diggins is a unique talent and will improve, but Tulsa fans were hoping for more.
It’s only the first half of the season, but the Lynx have quietly shown that they are a few notches about Phoenix and a few more above Tulsa.
Still, if you were to ask an average sports fan who is the best team in the West, I think they would say LA or Phoenix based on media talk. For some reason I don’t think the Lynx are too caught up in that.
McCarville Has Fit In Just fine
When Minnesota traded for center Janel McCarville last offseason, there were many question marks, and rightfully so.
The fans already loved McCarville. She and Whalen were a big reason for the growth of women’s basketball in Minnesota, but still, she hadn’t played in the WNBA since 2010. Was there any guarantee that she’d be able to start for a championship contender? Would she be in shape?
Early in camp, McCarville was a bit out of basketball shape, but she quickly found her rhythm. She may have not made the All-Star game like the rest of her teammates, but her ability to pass is amazing to see. Imagine Whalen playing the center position.
She also is great at boxing out defenders so her teammates can collect boards.
Her line of 6.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists might not seem overly impressive, but if you watched her in a game, you’d realize she is a very important part of this team.
So far, so good.
We knew that none of the team’s rookies were going to greatly impact a team with so much talent, but one has really gone above and beyond what I thought she would bring the team.
Sugar Rodgers, primarily a scorer and 3-point threat at Georgetown, has turned into a scrappy defender and an energy bench player for the Lynx. In her last eight games, she’s played fewer than 10 minutes just twice. Averaging 2.7 points and two rebounds isn’t something that will jump out at you, but the offense will come. Her defense and willing to work her tail off is the most noticeable and likely a sign of things to come.
Lindsey Moore, the team’s first-round pick out of Nebraska, may be seen as a disappointment being she had that first-round label on her, but I disagree. Playing point is one of the most demanding positions in professional sports, both mentally and physically. Unlike Rodgers, Moore doesn’t have the body size to play a wing position. Her lack of playing time likely has more to do with the emergence and flexibility of Monica Wright than anything else. Learning behind Whalen is a blessing and we have seen that rushing young point guards (Diggins) into a lot of playing time might not always be a beneficial thing.
When the Australian forward Rachel Jarry came to training camp, I doubted she would make the team. Well, she made me look stupid. She doesn’t pass the eye-test, but she is a hustle player that brings this lineup international experience. It looked like she might be a part of the rotation earlier in the season, but the lineup has changed a bit. Still, if Jarry can develop her outside shot and continue what she showed in training camp, she could become a solid player off the bench for this team.
We Are Getting What We Expected
Players like Whalen, Augustus, Moore, Brunson and even Wright aren’t getting the attention perhaps they should be getting simply because they aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. They are doing exactly what they’ve done for their careers.
We could dedicate an entire section to them, but I wouldn’t be telling you anything you don’t know.
Whalen is the league’s best pure point guard.
Moore is an incredible all-around talent.
Augustus might be the best one-on-one player in the league.
Brunson is a double-double machine.
Wright has done everything the team has asked her to do thus far.
Yikes. We are at 1,100 words already. Okay, here’s what we’ll do. Tomorrow I will release the second half of this article and will go over what to look for in the second half. Deal? Deal.
As always, thanks for reading. Have a good Sunday.
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