In late June, Kayla McBride was coming off a season-low performance of four points against the Connecticut Sun, extending her streak of less than double-figures in scoring to three straight games.
McBride was struggling offensively while finding her spot in a new-look offense, and she was the first to admit it. But there was still something she could control amid the struggles to remain involved and as an asset to her team, something she’s always known — remain aggressive and keep shooting.
“I’ve just been a little more passive than normal. I’m just trying to find my shots. I don’t want to take bad shots, but still just being able to force the action and make people have to guard on that end,” McBride said in late June about her play of late at that time.
“You want to contribute to winning and that’s really what it’s about. But also knowing who I am as a player and being able to bring that and give that impact to us on the offensive end especially I think is really important to us moving forward. Just continue to stay aggressive and be myself, and a lot more shots.”
Since that point in the season, it’s safe to say McBride has found her shot and her spot in the Minnesota Lynx offense. And her play as of late, on both ends of the court, has been one key element to Minnesota’s recent winning streak that has quickly turned its season around after an 0-6 start.
“Players like her, it’s just the life of a shooter that, you’re going to go through tough stretches,” Cheryl Reeve said of McBride and working through occasional struggles offensively. “We just said she has to have an assassin’s mindset that if you’re open, you have to shoot it. You can’t turn down shots. … She’s taken that to heart.”
Providing a Spark Offensively
McBride is no stranger to dealing with and working through adversity, and that is something that reared its head early on in the year with the sharpshooter shooting below 30% from three nearly a dozen games into the season.
But as she has many times in her career, McBride has found ways to work through any struggles she may be experiencing and has turned things around. During the Lynx’s recent win streak, her play has been one of the keys to Minnesota’s success and she has returned to form as a dangerous offensive threat many have become accustomed to seeing out of the veteran.
“I feel like I was being a little bit passive, getting in my head a little bit too much. I know who I am as a player,” McBride said. “I play a lot of basketball all year round. You know, shots go in, shots don’t go in, but you know, I know how to get myself back. I talked to Cheryl before the last Seattle game (on June 27) and she was just like, ‘Let it fly, like have fun.’
“I was shooting more stressed than just shooting to make it. And, just having that mindset out there and knowing that, Coach has my back, that my teammates have my back. Like I said, it happens, you know? I didn’t get down on myself. I just kept shooting.”
During Minnesota’s five-game win streak it held until Sunday’s loss to the Las Vegas Aces, McBride averaged 15.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 42.6% from the field, 44.1% from three and 93.8% from deep. Behind Napheesa Collier, who has led the team in an MVP-caliber season thus far, McBride is next on the team in multiple statistical categories and remains an important piece to the Lynx rotation.
McBride’s turnaround isn’t the lone reason for the Lynx success, but it’s been a crucial addition to the team in providing a deep-ball threat and another player opposing defenses have to keep tabs on, which opens things up for everyone else on the floor with her.
“I know enough about myself as a player that I don’t have to worry about my offense,” McBride said. “Just what does the team need me to do and how I can do it at the best level, whether the shots go in or don’t go in. I know who I am.”
Being a Lockdown Defender
Although McBride’s offensive production oftentimes receives much of the attention, her defense this season has been perhaps even more important to the Lynx. It’s another example of the veteran guard being able to impact the game in many ways, even when her shots aren’t falling.
For most of the season and especially during Minnesota’s turnaround, McBride has been tasked with taking on the role of guarding the best player on the opposing team, which is no easy objective. But McBride has showcased her two-way capabilities once again in 2023, most recently shutting down players such as the WNBA’s leading scorer Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Mitchell and other talented offensive players.
“Just finding my way and then just trying to affect the game in other ways. I think that I get energy from that, especially on the defensive end,” McBride said. “We gotta make plays and then get us in transition. Then you’re not so worried about it, you’re not thinking about it. So just trying to take it for what it is and keep my effort and energy the same and just allowing the game to come to me because I’ve seen a lot of games, and I have a lot of experience.”
McBride has stepped up defensively in key moments multiple times this season, locking down players throughout the game but notably in the fourth quarter when her team needs it most. As a result, those moments and those performances have helped spark the Lynx to victory on multiple occasions.
“Her hustle plays and her giving up herself physically, certainly when shots go in, but she’s been doing it without her shots going in. She’s been a leader in that area,” Reeve said. “That was something that she focused on wanting to be better at for with his team as compared to maybe last year’s defense.
“We trust K-Mac on every team’s best perimeter player. She knows them so well. She knows her own physical abilities, what she can and can’t do. … She has a great belief in herself.”
As we’ve seen over and over again during McBride’s three-year stint with the Lynx, she is a key to what Minnesota is able to do on both ends of the floor and provides a spark to the team on a nightly basis along with being a valued leader in the locker room.
“K-Mac’s leadership, communication in timeouts, her calm, and communicating to teammates, communicating with our staff, ideating on what she should be doing,” Reeve said of McBride’s valued traits she provides. “She’s just really experienced.”
Whenever adversity hits, either with her team or with herself personally, McBride is there to answer it. And that trait is something that is key to the success of the Lynx both now and in the future.
“Her calming presence is always super appreciated because throughout the game we have highs and lows, but she’s always out there like calming us down, telling us what to get in,” Collier said of her teammate. “It’s just super appreciated. I can’t say enough about how much that affects us on the court in a positive way.”