The Minnesota Lynx look bad. That’s a strange sentence to write because this might be the first time in over a decade that it could be written. This is team No Drama, so reliably good for so long they’d become almost boring. In the days after another Minnesota team’s disappointing postseason exit, it’s customary for a Minnesotan to pipe up above the state’s sports gloom with a well-meaning “Don’t forget the Lynx!” Hold the piping. Forget the Lynx. Four games into the season, they are without even one single win. They have not shot well. They have not defended well. They won’t remain this hopeless—some recent signings look promising and a few key players have yet to make their season debuts—but dramatic improvement does not seem to be in the cards.
A loyal Lynx sicko would counter with this: Foolish blogger. Four games into the season is too early to make such sweeping claims. This sicko would tell me, in meticulous and slow-building fashion, of another time when a team began its season 0-4 but rallied to finish a respectable 22-10, good for third in the league. In a thrilling reveal, they would inform me that this fabled team was none other than last year’s Minnesota Lynx, who started the season poorly and managed to turn their season around after signing a veteran point guard and getting players back from overseas commitments. Wearing a brilliant grin, the sicko would return to their seat, unprepared for the owning to follow.
Because I would counter the sicko’s counter with this: First of all, you joker, you absolute clown, four games is a decent chunk of a 36-game season. Decent enough to make claims, anyway, or at least to worry. Using PowerPoint technology, my trusty assistant would pull up this blog’s first paragraph for all to see, eventually zooming in on the part where I said “dramatic improvement” does not seem likely. That, I would say, is the difference between this season and last. When the Lynx started 0-4 last year, dramatic improvement was in the cards. Superstar Napheesa Collier joined the team late because of her Euroleague obligations, and her return, as expected, gave the 0-4 Lynx a boost. This time, she is not walking through that door; Collier is pregnant and unlikely to play this year at all. It would begin to dawn on this sicko that nobody is coming to save the day. Point guard Moriah Jefferson, a fluid and reliable shooter the Lynx signed Friday, looked like a valuable addition in Saturday’s close loss to Chicago. Veteran guard Kayla McBride will eventually return from her team overseas. But neither quite qualifies as a Collier-level upgrade. The Lynx sicko, now convinced of my correctness, would simply crumple up and die of shame.
So let’s get way too ahead of ourselves. In one sense, this could be an excellent year for the Lynx to pack it in early. Call it the Seattle Storm Method: being amazing every year except on the one or two occasions franchise-changing talent happens to be available at the top of the draft. Voila! For your troubles, you have one Breanna Stewart! I can’t think of anything more Indiana Fever-ish than committing to the tank from Day 1 by assembling the closest thing to a college team the WNBA has ever seen, and losing the Aliyah Boston draft lottery to the Minnesota damn Lynx. (The Fever are a surprising 2-3 on the season, one of those wins coming against the Lynx.)
But you can also think of 6-foot-6 reasons the Lynx should power through and figure it out. Surely Sylvia Fowles, retiring at the end of this season, deserves the chance to end her Hall of Fame career on more pleasant terms. She should be remembered for sustained excellence, for how well she adapted as her sport kept asking its centers to be faster and more versatile. So far this season, Fowles has been stranded in the paint, surrounded by guards incapable of passing inside. This is basketball’s own form of tragedy, like owning a luxury car and losing the keys. I do not want to remember her this way.
In most circumstances, the team thought least likely to fall apart actually falling apart would be something funny and cool to gawk at. But I like the Lynx! I want them to be good. So ahead of their game against the also-confusing Los Angeles Sparks tonight, I am asking them to please get it together.