Minnesota Lynx get smarter, tougher with Karima Christmas-Kelly

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 6: Karima Christmas-Kelly
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 6: Karima Christmas-Kelly /

A free agent who fits Cheryl Reeve’s team.

The Minnesota Lynx have struck early in free agency, agreeing to terms with former Dallas Wings forward Karima Christmas-Kelly, High Post Hoops has confirmed. Kent Youngblood of the Star-Tribune reported it first.

The move fits expertly with virtually everything Lynx general manager Cheryl Reeve identified as what her team needs to do to improve upon last season’s 18-16 mark and first round playoff loss.

Christmas-Kelly, 29, is a 6′ forward with versatility, who has played in Washington, Tulsa, Indiana and Dallas. She has tons of playoff experience, making the postseason in five separate seasons. Her size and ruggedness allows her to defend both threes and fours, while her quickness gives her a chance to stop opposing twos in a bigger lineup. She missed all but six games last season due to injury, but is expected to be at 100 percent come training camp, with the Lynx hoping to have her in early.

Not also Christmas-Kelly’s ability to step into passing lanes, reflecting her high basketball IQ. She’s topped a two percent steal percentage five times in her career, with a season-best 4.2 in 2012, and a Minnesota team that finished tenth in forcing turnovers last season felt the impact of fewer transition opportunities and easy baskets as a result. There was this overwhelming feeling of a heavy lift for the Lynx all season long, and that played a huge part in it.

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But it is offensively where she has a chance to truly make a difference for Minnesota. Christmas-Kelly has displayed an inconsistent three-point shot, but has twice finished in the top ten in the WNBA in accuracy from deep. However, she’s going to a staff that excels in improving how players shoot it from deep, with Walt “The Guard Whisperer” Hopkins on hand to turn Christmas-Kelly into another deep threat that spaces the floor for Sylvia Fowles.

There’s more to fit than on-court action, too, and Christmas-Kelly, a vital part of the Fred Williams locker room experience in Dallas, manages to be both an in-prime contributor under 30 and, at the same time, a long-tenured, important voice for Reeve in maintaining the level of professionalism and buy-in that has defined the Minnesota Lynx experience this decade.

“Obviously, Glory and Karima have been big parts of our team for a number of years,” Wings president Greg Bibb said back in December of Glory Johnson and Christmas-Kelly. “They’re leaders in the locker room and on the court, they’re great competitors and they’re outstanding women.”

Bibb elected to core Johnson. Now, Christmas-Kelly is heading north.

In many ways, Christmas-Kelly serves as both a potential logical fit at the three alongside Rebekah Brunson should she return, and a viable alternative if she elects to retire. Either way, there’s logic to how it comes together for Minnesota, and presumably at a price point more palatable than what it would have taken to keep Natasha Howard last offseason.

Minnesota has a ways to go to create a roster ready to compete for a title again in 2019, not least of which will come from a resolution of the Maya Moore questions. But with Brunson and Seimone Augustus also free agents, and Lindsay Whalen off the books and into coaching, the Lynx have plenty of canvas left to paint. And this is the right start.