The Minnesota Lynx started the season 0-4. Since then, they have won 16-5.
What has changed for Minnesota?
It’s not just that the team added Layshia Clarendon. Yet it is hard to deny the clear role Clarendon played in overturning the Lynx and the subsequent victories.
The nine-year-old vet is putting together the most influential season of their careers, something that is even more impressive because of its unceremonious start.
It’s worth appreciating Clarendon’s journey of 2021, from the lows to the highs to the next.
LC in NYC
On May 20, in the early days of the 2021 WNBA season, the New York Liberty was surprising abandon Clarendon. Through New York’s first three games, which were all victories, Clarendon saw only three minutes of action, which apparently delegated to the depth of the rotation when head coach Walt Hopkins organized the team’s attack around new additions Betnijah Laney, Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb, as well as the alleged rise of Sabrina Ionescu.
Just over a year earlier, Clarendon had been at the center of Liberty’s plans. During the 2020 off-season, New York made Clarendon their big free agent ($ 120,000 a year for two years), making them the leader, both on and off the track, for a team with seven newcomers on the roster brought in.
Clarendon fulfilled this role admirably. During the tough wubble season, they averaged 26 minutes per game in 19 of 22 games for Liberty, without complaining. They were obviously not a point guard, but were still the number 1 option and achieved a career high of 11.5 points per game at a career-high usage percentage of 21.8 percent.
Clarendon shone even more as an outdoor leader. They have long been fearless in addressing justice issues, and have been one of the faces of players’ activism and advocacy efforts as a member of the WNBPA’s executive council and social justice council.
In the off-season, Clarendon appeared in public as the first open trans- and non-binary athlete of the WNBA. They also shared their decision to undergo top surgery. Since then, they have embraced being a representative of a community that fights for full inclusion in sports as well as society.
With the Liberty, like all WNBA teams, working to lead players and promote racial justice, gender equality and sexual inclusion, Clarendon’s ease in public has made these issues an extra valuable asset to the organization. made.
This context seemed short-sighted in Liberty’s decision to renounce Clarendon. Yes, the roster spots are extremely limited in the WNBA. However, the WNBA and its teams must also deal with things that are ‘bigger than basketball’. Clarendon embodies this ethos.
At the announcement of the decision to divorce Clarendon, the Liberty released the following statement:
The NY Liberty would like to thank Layshia for their incredible contributions to our organization, as well as off the track. Layshia’s courage and activism inspire us all. We wish you all the best and look forward to seeing your continued impact on this league and in this world.
On their social media platforms, Clarendon later said: ‘I’m still shocked and sad to be in this moment. But do not worry, people tried to bury me before they just forgot that I am a seed. I will be back. “
The Minnesota summer sunshine provided the ideal conditions for Clarendon to grow and bloom. Clarendon also enriched and brought the Lynx to life.
Clarendon announces their arrival in Minnesota in almost perfect fashion.
On May 30, they assigned the then undefeated Lynx to victory over the Connecticut Sun and drained a game shot on the buzzer before scoring five points in overtime to help Minnesota secure their first win of the season.
Fortunately for the Lynx, Clarendon’s debut was not a departure. Although their subsequent performances did not produce as much drama, their immediate impact persisted.
In 20 games with Minnesota, Clarendon averaged 10.5 points, 5.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds, hitting a career-best percentage off the field. They also have a total career height and team height plus-minus of plus-5.7.
But their presence was more important than their statistics.
After Clarendon’s first game in a Lynx uniform, head coach Cheryl Reeve gave their compliments “Control and management of the game.” Clarendon proved he was the conductor the Lynx needed, and reliably and authoritatively orchestrated Minnesota’s offensive attack.
Assistant coach Katie Smith presents a similar assessment, assert, ‘They are very much a competitor, a professional, know the scout, understand the game. And a team player. They really filled a lot of boxes that we needed to help us get started. ”
As would be expected of any great leader, Clarendon shared credit with their teammates, remark that “it’s hard when you do not have really talented pieces around you when you are a point guard, because you have to pull the puppet strings. If you do not have good dolls around you, it is difficult to make the show look good. ”
Clarendon’s aggressive attitude and physical style also added an essential element to the Lynx offense. They mark bully ball – if they use their power to walk in the paint and in the direction of the basket – test and the opposite defense collapses. They achieved a career high of 6.9 points per game in the painting, a number that is the top five in the league under guards and wings.
On Clarendon’s aggression and corporeality, Reeve said“It’s Clarendon, not one of those players who will blow you away with athleticism or speed. But every penny of talent, Layshia, squeezes them out of themselves. It’s hard to find.”
Lynx legend and current MVP candidate Sylvia Fowles repeats Reeve, emphasizes, “Layshia is phenomenal. … [They get] all we need to get done, whether it’s shooting, driving to the hole, stealing, putting her body in the evening. ”
What’s next for Clarendon and the Lynx?
With Clarendon at the helm, the Lynx began pressure championship potential from this list, which emerges as a legitimate title threat as they climb into the fourth seed.
Minnesota initially signed Clarendon to several gravity contracts, and has an ink rest of season contract in early July, meaning they will serve as the proven commander of the Lynx through an expected race to a record fifth WNBA championship.
Regardless of how this season ends, it’s clear that Clarendon should have earned their long-term possession in Minnesota. Although the re-signing of Fowles is likely to be the first priority for Reeve and the Lynx in the off-season, Clarendon should be a short second for a multi-year deal.