Minnesota Lynx star Napheesa Collier hit a major milestone this week when she returned to practice for the first time since giving birth to her daughter, Mila, on May 25. She is also expected to join the team on its upcoming road trip, and will continue to progress toward a return from maternity leave.
But while Collier is doing everything possible to play before the end of the regular season so she can suit up at least one more time with retiring legend Sylvia Fowles, it must be stressed that she has a long way to go. With just over three weeks until the final game of the regular season on Aug. 14, she is quickly running out of time.
“It’s nice we have a couple practices and a shoot-around [this week],” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “The idea is to progress into next week, as we go on the road, and actually have some practice time on the road… I’d say segments — segments of practice. I don’t think we’re going to get to the point where we feel that Phee can do things fully by the time the season ends. I don’t see that.”
Collier is still only doing 5-on-0 work in practice and is focused on improving her fitness and getting her legs back under her. As much as Collier wants to play, neither her nor the Lynx are going to take any chances and rush her back. “The biggest thing [other players who have given birth] told me is that this is hard to do,” Collier said in an interview earlier this month. “I have to listen to myself, my body. Not rush it.”
At this point, a realistic goal for getting her on the floor before the end of the season would be “spot situations, possibly,” Reeve said.
Whether she ends up playing this season or not, Collier’s increased presence and participation in practice should provide a boost for the Lynx as they continue their playoff push. After a disastrous 3-13 start that had them in last place, the Lynx have gone 7-4 to get to within two games of the final two playoff spots. All of a sudden, extending their playoff streak to 12 seasons is within reach.