Reeve wants Lynx back on top in 2013
MINNEAPOLIS – You may not follow Cheryl Reeve's career closely. You may not be a WNBA fan. You may not even know who she is. But you probably should.
After a year around the woman, I'm fairly certain that if I were putting together a team – any team, really – I'd want her to coach it.
I stopped by Reeve's office at the Target Center recently to catch up with her during the WNBA offseason following her Lynx's loss in the Finals to the Indiana Fever. She greeted me with the most unexpected compliment: She loved my final story, she said, the one in which I criticized her team for not having season-ending availability and instead slinking out of town as if they had something to be ashamed of. They'd just finished a season with the best record in the league and lost in the Finals, for goodness sake, and that was my argument.
And Reeve loved it? The coach loved me challenging her team? Yes. In fact, she wants more people to challenge women's basketball, to look at it closely enough to find the faults behind the feel-good stories. She's tough as nails, smart, and she's still bitter from those October losses.
But bitter is good, in this case, and the Lynx will come out fighting in June when their season begins. Until then, here's a bit more on what Reeve and her players have been up to.
FSN: What are you hoping to add and change this offseason to follow up the Finals loss?
REEVE: It's definitely an interesting offseason, if you will. Any time you don't win a championship, then everybody else is looking. If you didn't win a championship, you're looking to improve your team, and in our case get back to that (championship). We've got the challenge of having a potential starter (Taj McWilliams-Franklin) that's … maybe going to be out of the mix in a retirement situation. We haven't been in this situation in a little while. We're, since the day the season ended – probably for me a few weeks before the season ended – your mind starts to go to what's next. Now the last couple drafts had our minds on just that. So now we're looking at going, okay, it's time for Amber Harris, Dev Peters and Jessica Adair to kind of now – the training wheels are coming off. … Let's see. Can they ride the bike? So we're excited for those guys to be able to now elevate themselves.
FSN: Any other uncertainty regarding players this offseason?
REEVE: The other big situation is Candice (Wiggins), who's our restricted free agent. That one's a little bit more challenging because there's two parties involved, us and Candice, whereas Taj (deciding whether to retire) is really all on her. So that one's a little more challenging, and that's where we've spend the bulk of our time this offseason, is trying to figure out what's best. We have no answers yet. Is suspect that it's going to be something that takes a while. And most restricted free agents situations do. (There is no deadline to sign restricted free agents. The team could begin negotiations Jan. 15, but players could not sign offer sheets until Feb. 1.)
I think draft day is going to be a telling time, which is only less than eight weeks away. So I think between now and then, obviously, it's not a stretch to say that … something (with Wiggins) will resolve itself.
And then … we waived Erin Thorn, and so that position is open. We have probably the draft (to) fill that spot. We've kind of gone through the process of, I know for me as a coach, I'm re-thinking how we've utilized that spot.
FSN: You mean in terms of having a player who really doesn't play too often and knows she won't get tons of minutes from the start?
REEVE: Erin Thorn joined us willingly in that spot, and the good thing in all of this is we've been healthy enough that those people have not been utilized. So even though those things are spelled out, it's hard to execute for the player. So now we've looking at going, you know, maybe a younger player that we can have more time with and evolve. Expectations are different for younger players. We've kind of tweaked our thinking there.
FSN: You also signed your 2011 draft pick, Rachel Jarry. What are you expecting from her? (Jarry is Australian and remained in Australia last year to prep for the 2012 Olympics.)
REEVE: The year we drafted her, we knew we had the looming Olympics for this young player, that she'd want to get to the other side of that. It fit with our roster plans because coming last year it was full. So the opportunity for her looks a lot different this year than had she come last year. We're excited to see what she is. She's a good young player that's on an Olympic team that has done well on the world stage, and we'll see if it translates to anything in the WNBA. She's a glue player in terms of the description of her in that, you know, we've got some pretty good players, and cracking minutes is going to be hard. So (she has to have an) ability to be a good teammate and … work on her game but not be disruptive. It's a challenge.
FSN: Last year you said you were doing a pretty good job of watching as much of your players overseas as you could. Still this case this winter?
REEVE: I watch a lot of games, which is fun. The one that I got to watch was Maya (Moore) over China. … I wanted to see how (her crazy scoring) was happening, and it was really interesting, really, really interesting. I think all in all it was a really good offseason for Maya in terms of building your brand, if you will, and being in China with the Jordan (endorsement). And then they won, in their first year of existence. They won. I'm sure the owner's thrilled, and Maya gets that bonus money.
FSN: Do you ever just sit over here and feel powerless in terms of protecting players' interests and health overseas in the offseason?
REEVE: My interest for all of our players is their ability, if they have to go play from an income standpoint to do what they need to do to earn, I hope that they're in a place that number one can utilize their abilities and they can improve on them, and that they physically aren't so taxed.
We always say (injuries are) a part of it until it happens to you, and then it stinks. You kind of go, can we get through another offseason healthy? … It doesn't guarantee anything, but when you come back healthy, it doesn't mean you're not going to have injuries during our season that would change things; it's just nice when everybody's intact.
We should be getting Amber back soon because she's in South Korea. We should be getting Jess and Monica (Wright), who are in Australia – they should be finishing soon. Lindsay (Whalen) is home. (Whalen's team in Turkey stopped paying her this winter, so she returned to the U.S. and will not play internationally for the rest of the offseason.) … You're not getting paid and you're beat up physically? That's an easy call.
Dev Peters is home. There's some silver lining in that for her. She was injured. She has a meniscus that she had taken care of, and she's cleared to play at this point. The great thing for her, as I told her, for young players, typically you're coming in out of college; you're going right to the WNBA. There's no time. You're going right to your overseas job, coming right back to the WNBA, and the next thing you know, you're three or four years into it and you've had zero time to figure anything out. The silver lining for her is that she's got these couple months that we're very clear with her what she needs to improve on and what she needs to do. She's coming here early. … I told her in a few years, you're going to look back on this time and it's going to be the time that she figured out what she needed to do and make the most of it. Hopefully that's the story.
Seimone (Augustus) and Rebekah Brunson are probably my two that are in that European boat … that had to go over there, and are coming back in May, and they're begging Coach for some time off. Those are probably my two that I'll worry about until they get back.
FSN: So I'm sure you've spent a lot of time stewing over that last playoff series, but I was curious: Do you see a silver lining in it in that it seemed to get a lot more people interested in women's basketball?
REEVE: I think that the Minnesota Lynx, I think with having three Olympians, I think we had great momentum. We were kind of up here (holds her hand up high) with the interest. Maya kind of always gives us that. I think (Tamika) Catchings, I don't know if on Indiana they had the most understated stars. I think Catching became such a feel-good story. And it pissed me off. Because it was, when you're the defending champion, nobody wants to see you win, other than your own people. You're just working against so many forces. I always say this – the league wanted a different champion. The league loves Tamika Catchings. We say it. When we lose to her, we say if you're going to lose to anyone, it's Tamika Catchings. And all that stuff makes me sick. But I do thing it really was Catchings, and on a broader scale, the interest touched people in different ways. There were different reasons why people were interested. The ratings on game two were the highest ever on ESPN, whatever the numbers were. It was great for our league.
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