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With the NBA training camps within sight, it's time to bid a fond farewell to the Lynx, who won last night, lost it's two best players to injury, and again failed to make the playoffs. Let's hope both Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins will recover from their injuries, as the team closes out their season this weekend. Especially Augustus, in what looked like a very nasty spill to prematurely end her year.
In a missive at the beginning of the season, I "boldly" predicted that the ladies would do better, but wouldn't make the playoffs. Since the team has been positively awful the last couple of years, I didn't go exactly on a limb here, but when they started out 5-0, I thought I'd have to take back every bad thing I said about head coach Don Zierden, along with players Nicole Ohlde, and Lindsey Harding.
I shouldn't have been so hard on myself.
While a lot of positive things happened this season, this team is still plagued with issues of size, point guard play, and defense. Nicky Anosike was an interior godsend, but isn't big enough to handle the likes of Lisa Leslie. Veterans Ohlde and Vanessa Hayden-Johnson have once more demonstrated that they are not starting quality interior players. Anosike and Charde Houston--who was a surprise offensively--are hopefully the beginnings of a revamped front court.
Any criticism of Harding seems unfair given her preseason injury, but as an overall number one league draft choice, she is not an impactful player, and her on-court team management skills have been underwhelming. Coach Zierden's inability to regroup and adjust to league play after the 5-0 start is another indication that as a head coach, he makes a good assistant. Given the overall youth of the team, what could he have done?
Primarily, start and keep the best players on the floor, longer. While Candice Wiggins isn't a natural point guard, she was the best one the Lynx had, and was effective at the position. Anna DeForge has been a disappointment; if the idea was establishing overall team balance and depth, why not bring her off the bench to stabilize the second unit, move Augustus to SG and start Houston, who had some serious energy and front court scoring ability? Or, if the team simply must start Harding to justify the investment of trading for her, start Wiggins at SG? I don't want to go Randy Wittman on anyone here and keep changing a young lineup, but it's been pretty clear throughout this season who were the more consistent, "impactful" players. Zierden did a poor job of asset management.
Still, to go to the games this season was a breath of fresh air. There was energy, excitement and hope, which for rebuilding teams is a vital dynamic. We can see signs from both the men's and women's teams that the organization might finally be starting--after years of ineptitude--to figure things out. If the Wolves can demonstrate the same sort of progress, we just may have something here.