Lynx, reinforcements persevering through plaguing injuries

Asia Taylor boxes out during a recent game. Chris Poss photo.
Asia Taylor boxes out during a recent game. Chris Poss photo.

The Minnesota Lynx’s injury report, like other teams around the WNBA, reads more like a laundry list these days.

Seimone Augustus: out (knee). Damiris Dantas: out (calf). Karima Christmas-Kelly: out (knee). Jessica Shepard: out (ACL injury).

The Lynx roster was whittled down to fewer than 10 healthy players, with Christmas-Kelly and Dantas most recently sidelined. So the league granted Minnesota the salary cap hardship waivers it needed to sign replacement players.

Enter Asia Taylor and Kenisha Bell. Again.

Taylor spent her rookie season with the Lynx after being selected in the third round of the 2014 draft. Golden Gopher Bell, a third-round draft pick this year, spent training camp with Minnesota before missing the last cut for the final roster.

When the need arose for more playing staff, Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve prioritized familiarity.

“(The) No. 1 thing is they’ve been (here),” she said. “Obviously Kenisha, very recently. That was an easy call.”

And it has paid dividends, especially in the case of Taylor, who put up a career-high 13 points last night against the Chicago Sky. Minnesota is now 9-6 and tied for third place in a mercurial season that has seen teams shift positions after every match up.

Bell, a Minneapolis native and college hoops star, responded to being cut in May by joining a local pro-am team and working out with the Gophers. When the Lynx called, she was ready for a second chance.

“You can’t overthink the process. You have to wait on your moment,” Bell said. “I knew I was doing something good in training camp for them to want to call me back, out of all the girls that they could have called back.”

The moves aren’t necessarily meant to be season-altering blockbusters, but Bell and Taylor bolster a thinning roster in need of the accompanying stability.

“It’s not that all of a sudden you’re going to see Kenisha Bell on the floor,” Reeve said. “It’s just, obviously, you want to be able to have some depth in case.”

That hasn’t quite been the same for Taylor, however. The fifth-year forward got going with 8:35 of action in a 74-71 win against the Connecticut Sun July 6.

“Taylor is somebody we’re familiar with. When you’re in these situations, you really don’t want to bring an unknown into the mix,” Reeve said. “So, while she hasn’t been with this group and maybe some of the recent times for the Lynx, we know what she’s about. And we thought she’d be a good fit.”

Former Minnesota Gopher standout Kenisha Bell is back with the Lynx. NBAE via Getty Images.
Former Minnesota Gopher standout Kenisha Bell is back with the Lynx. NBAE via Getty Images.

Bell made her WNBA debut during a July 2 win over Atlanta – for all of 52 seconds – but a first outing, nonetheless. Now the team has won five of their last six games, and aren’t thinking about what they’re missing.

Bell said the team has been persevering through the injuries as a cohesive unit.

“Regardless of the people that went down, those people have been staying positive because other people are picking them up,” she said. “It’s a learning experience for everybody. It shows what you have to do when you have a player down: You have to step up for that person.”

The duo’s long-term future with the team is still in limbo. Shepard and Christmas-Kelly are out for the season, but Dantas is working toward her return. The same is true of Augustus, who has yet to play this season, while decisions regarding the arrivals of Temi Fagbenle and Ceci Zandalisni from EuroBasket loom.

Nothing is guaranteed for Bell, which is a sharp contrast from her days of headlining Gopher games. Instead, she’s owning the responsibility that comes with the professional opportunity.

“(I’m) just listening to what the coaches ask of me,” she said. “At this level, it’s more so about who’s smarter at this point. … You have to outsmart the opponents regardless of what talents you have. That’s how you win.”