WNBA

Lay Leading the Way for Lynx

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When the Minnesota Lynx went down 0-4 to begin their season, a lot of the bright expectations brought by their big offseason acquisitions began to dim. The team just did not work out of the gate. There was no cohesiveness, no communication. It didn’t help that they faced the reigning champion Seattle Storm twice in that span either.

Coach Cheryl Reeve made a number of comments about how poorly training camp went, and it was obvious that they were still at a loss for the point guard position. They ran offense through an out-of-position Aerial Powers.

The Turning Point

On the morning of May 30, they signed Layshia Clarendon, inserting them directly into the rotation that night against the 5-1 Connecticut Sun. After the first quarter, the Lynx were down 12 and looked well on their way to 0-5. Then, the game shifted. The Lynx started to level out. They clawed to within four points to finish the half, then tied it up at the end of the fourth. Clarendon fired from half court at the buzzer, sinking the potential game winner.

The team stormed him, with smiles and cheers all around. Unfortunately, the officials reviewed it and called the shot back. Lay had gotten the shot off too late and they were heading to overtime. But that might be the moment that this team of separate parts started to gel together. One shot from a player who had not even been able to be with the team before that day. The shot was called back, but it was incredibly important. The Lynx felt like they were going to win. And they did.

The Road to .500

The Lynx were not without some bumps along the road on the way back to .500 and beyond, trading a few wins and losses over the next handful of games. But, they had found their lead communicator. Clarendon needed to use veteran communication skills or they and the team would flounder. Instead, both Clarendon and the Lynx have flourished together. The Lynx have gone an astounding 12-3 since Layshia had joined the team and they have a team best +18.0 net rating when they are on the floor versus off. On an individual level, Clarendon is also on pace for their own career highs across a number of categories. Currently, Clarendon’s field goal percentage (54.9%), defensive rating (90.7), net rating (14.3) and points in the paint (6.8) are all at the best of their nine-year career in the WNBA.

Keeping Clarendon Close

Coach Cheryl Reeve, in her dual role as the team’s general manager, had to use just about every trick in the CBA to hold on to Clarendon. A handful of releases due to the nature of hardship contracts drove fans through an emotional rollercoaster ride. Both Coach Reeve and Clarendon stated that the process was clearly communicated the whole time. When at last Clarendon was able to be signed to a rest-of-season deal (at the unfortunate expense of Rachel Banham for a few days), fans breathed a final sigh of relief. The piece of the puzzle that was missing in those first four games was there to stay for 2021.

So what does the future hold with Clarendon on the other side of the Olympic break? Time will tell. They seem to have found a comfortable home on this team. Bolstered by the fact that Clarendon had played with a large part of their teammates during stops in Indiana (Achonwa), Atlanta (Dantas), and Connecticut (Carleton and Banham), not to mention her stints playing with USA Basketball in previous years, Clarendon should help this Lynx squad quite a bit.

They look comfortable amongst their teammates, and the squad looks far more cohesive as a whole with Clarendon at the helm of the offense. Through the 7-game win streak taking the Lynx into the break, Clarendon flirted with double-doubles in each game. Lay played notably well against the powerful Las Vegas Aces and helped lead the Lynx to a top tier offense over that 7-game stretch.

So, next up for the new floor general of the Lynx? Clarendon’s former team, the one that waived them just one game into the season – the New York Liberty.

About Corbitt Harrell

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