All season long, the Minnesota Lynx overcame hardships and adversity to exceed expectations when many around the WNBA expected them to fail.
Coming into the 2023 season, Minnesota was viewed as a team in a rebuilding year and in a transition with an infusion of youth and new faces joining the roster.
When the season began, the Lynx dropped to the bottom of the league at 0-6, sparking debate of if they should already start to tank in an attempt to get better positioning in the 2024 WNBA Draft.
But Minnesota wasn’t going to tank, and it didn’t give up. The Lynx fought their way back in the second half of the year, moving from the bottom of the standings to as high as the fifth seed towards the end of the regular season.
“I’m really proud of the journey we’ve had this year and the growth that we’ve had,” star forward Napheesa Collier said. “It definitely wasn’t easy, but I think we overcame a lot of adversity.”
As a result of that second-half turnaround, Minnesota returned to the postseason a year after failing to do so, even with a young and somewhat new-look roster that was learning how to mesh together on the fly. The Lynx season may have come to a close earlier than they hoped it would, but they still took the third-best team in the WNBA to a series-deciding three games, the only first-round playoff series to not end in a sweep.
In the end, all things considered as a “rebuilding team,” the 2023 season was a successful one for the Lynx.
“Overall, I’m super proud of our team and their effort. … What this team has gone through, players who had injuries, people playing out of position. But they just kept battling. I just told them how much I appreciated them.”
At the start of the year, Minnesota was focused the development and growth of players throughout the roster. By year’s end, that mission was accomplished and was accompanied by wins, finishing with a 19-21 record and the sixth seed in the league standings.
To go along with team success, we saw multiple players take the next step in their careers while giving the Lynx a clearer vision of what this team is and where it needs to go moving forward. They saw Napheesa Collier return after missing most of the 2022 season while playing at an MVP level this summer. They saw two rookies, Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász, take over starting roles and grow before our eyes.
“Realistically, we knew where we were [coming into the season]. Overall, I think Phee had an MVP-caliber season. Her back was hurting at the end of the season because she was carrying us,” Kayla McBride said. “I think we proved a lot of people wrong. I saw something [at the start of the year] that had us like 10th or 11th in the standings. To be 40 minutes from the semifinals, that’s insane.
“Just the belief we have in each other and what we were able to accomplish is really amazing. I’m super proud of this group. ... Seeing our growth and what were able to do, it was amazing.”
Perhaps more importantly, the Lynx showed heart, dedication, willingness to put the team first on a nightly basis, and bought into the core values of the organization which brought the team together and contributed to its success. And their dedication to get better will only continue to help in the overall success of the team moving forward.
“This team was super fun to coach. They were fun to coach because, as a coach you like to teach. That was the frame of mind that we came into the season with. It was a growth season, and as coaches, we didn’t want to focus on outcomes but focus on teaching and giving and building a foundation,” Cheryl Reeve said. “At every turn, whenever we coached them and asked them to do something, they tried their very best. As a coach, as a teacher, that’s the most rewarding part about what we do.
“The hallmark of Lynx basketball is how we do it. Not just that we’re successful, but how we do it. How we treat each other, how we connect with our fan base, the people that they are. When we play, people walk out of the gym knowing it and they see it,” Reeve continued. “Those are the things I’m proud of. We defied expectations. … There are so many success stories that we had that really give me joy. I walk out of here with my head high. I am super proud of this team and what we did this season.”
Coming into the 2023 season, Minnesota didn’t have many expectations, but the end result was the success of returning to the postseason as well as getting a clearer vision of the future of the franchise. Now at year’s end, they accomplished what they set out for and even exceeded expectations along the way, which is a great foundation to set up for even more success in years to come.
“I say we exceeded expectations. … I think people just wrote us off, they didn’t know what we were going to do. That’s honestly a fun position to be in because there are no expectations and you can go in there and stir the pot,” Collier said. “It’s fun to be growing and making a name for ourselves as a new Lynx team. Everyone knows about the legacy of Lynx players … We have an opportunity to make a new name for ourselves and redefine that legacy of the Lynx. And we’re in the beginning stages of that.
“I think the future is really bright. We have such a great foundation. I think the rebuilding phase that everyone is talking about is going to be much shorter than what was anticipated. … I’m really excited to see what we do next year and I think we’re really close.”