WNBA’s condensed schedule may work in veteran team’s favor
MINNEAPOLIS -- Sylvia Fowles is nervous about this season’s WNBA schedule.
It’s an odd year, meaning there’s a major international basketball competition. In 2018, it’s the World Cup. Traditionally, the WNBA stops its season mid-campaign to allow players to compete internationally before returning for the season’s conclusion.
This year, the league chose to ram the entire regular season and playoffs in before the World Cup tournament begins Sept. 22 in Spain. So the schedule is condensed, meaning games will be coming fast and furious.
In 2017, the Lynx’s 34 regular-season games were played over a span of 112 days. This season, those 34 games will be played over 91 days. That’s a lot of games in not so many days, and Fowles isn’t sure how the team’s veteran core will manage it.
“I’m not sure how we’re going to hold up,” she said. “It feels almost like an overseas season where games are just back to back to back. With our team, that’s just something that we’re not looking forward to. Just recovery time, rest time and trying to find time for those older players to make sure their bodies are recovering right.”
Again, that’s Fowles, a 32-year-old center in the prime of her WNBA career, speaking. The Lynx’s “older players” she’s worried about don’t seem to share the same concerns.
“It’s great,” said 34-year-old Seimone Augustus, who’s entering her 13th season. “I think coach calculated, what, 10 practices this year? It’s awesome.”
Augustus noted it’s “not awesome” that there won’t be as much rest time between games, but the veteran Lynx might actually be as equipped as anyone else to handle the quick campaign. Managing player health is always one of coach Cheryl Reeve’s chief concerns. Reeve already manages the team’s workload in training camp and is prepared to do the same during the season.
And if head athletic trainer Chuck Barta sees Reeve taking the team in a direction he isn’t comfortable with, the two will discuss the proper course of action.
“It is top of mind, for sure,” Reeve said. “Because health is a factor in this league. … Getting lucky and staying healthy. So we have to make those calculated-risk decisions.”
Reeve said film study and shootarounds will be important to “keep things tight” in terms of execution, while off days will be used more for nutrition, treatment and rest.
Minnesota had 11 stretches featuring three or more days of rest between games last season, including the all-star break. It has four such stretches this season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Reeve recalled stretches last season where the Lynx would have five days off between games. They’d take the first two days off, then have three straight practices.
“And they hated it,” Reeve said. “Most players hate it. Once you start the season, they just want to play.”
Forward Rebekkah Brunson, 36 and entering her 15th season, said the constant action will keep the Lynx “engaged.”
“It’ll keep the excitement up when you’re not just sitting around and beating each other up for a week before you get to play somebody else,” Brunson said. “I think there will be benefits to it, for sure.”
Reeve acknowledged the lack of practice time will lead to “slippage” for teams but noted that every team is in the same boat. And a veteran team such as Minnesota might not need as much practice time as younger squads across the league.
“We’re not going to say old in here, we’re going to say veteran,” Augustus said. “For a veteran team, it’s great to just play games. Obviously, we’re going to have to learn a lot of things on the go, there’s not a lot of practice time, but that’s when you get up to speed a little bit quicker, you’re under the gun. … It’ll be great for us.”