A week and a half into training camp, the Lynx will finally get to compete against another team this week.
After a travel day Monday, the Lynx will scrimmage in Washington, DC against the Mystics on Tuesday, then play the Mystics in the preseason opener Wednesday. lynx coach Cheryl Reeve has been happy with the way camp has gone so far — a far different sentiment than a year ago — but she will get a better idea of where her team is after the next few days.
With a 36-game season crammed into a short window — the season is starting and ending earlier than usual to accommodate the world championships in the fall — there won’t be a lot of time during the regular season for practice. So the team, more than ever, has to be ready to hit the ground running.
“And we talked about that,” Reeve said. “I know it can be hard. Training camp practices are longer. You’re trying to fit a lot in. We’ve always put a premium on [training camp]. We don’t do the less-is-more thing in camp. You have to put the work in.”
While a season ago so many players were out of shape, or injured, this year most of the players came to camp in shape, with the exception of Layshia Clarendon and Angel McCoughtry, who spent most of the offseason recovering from injuries. And while Damiris Dantas (Lisfranc injury) has been sidelined and Kayla McBride and Crystal Dangerfield are still playing overseas, Reeve feels this year’s team has done a good job of preparing.
At least so far.
Reeve said Rachel Banham has had a strong camp, as has Natalie Achonwa. Aerial Powers is in great shape. But Reeve will know more about what her team needs after two days’ worth of work in Washington. The team likely will make some cuts to the training camp roster after the trip.
Achonwa was signed as a free agent prior to last season, but the 6-3 forward/center played in only eight games before spraining his right medial collateral ligament in a victory over Los Angeles June 14.
She didn’t play with her new team for more than two months.
Achonwa rehabbed the knee for more than a month before being cleared — just in time — to play for Canada in the Olympics. But that rehab, plus the Olympic break, meant she didn’t play again for the Lynx until Aug. 15.
And even then her knee took some time to reach full health. “My knee wasn’t 100 percent until the Chicago playoff game,” she said. “And that was the last game of the season.”
After a strong offseason of work, Achonwa came to camp healthy and ready. “I think it’s doing something for a second time,” Reeve said. “Last year was her first time with us, understanding the vibe, what we like to do and what her place is in that.”
Achonwa had to learn to play with new teammates, learn a new system. And, ultimately, deal with injury. This season she had started camp strong. The backup at center to Sylvia FowlesReeve—at times out of necessity—has had Achonwa playing power forward alongside Fowles during camp.
They did that a bit last year, too. And Reeve likes the dynamic of having Achonwa, who is good with the mid-range shot and a strong passer, playing with Fowles in the post.