VIA @MINNESOTALYNX ON TWITTER

Napheesa Collier is a forward for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. Drafted 6th out of UConn by the Lynx in 2019, Collier she was subsequently named Rookie of the Year and was voted to the 2019 WNBA All-Rookie Team. Below, Collier details life in the Wubble, as well as her new podcast ‘Tea with A & Phee,’ which she hosts with A’ja Wilson. 

There was some initial skepticism around the WNBA bubble, but the consensus now seems to be that the bubble is better than expected. How concerned are you about bubble fatigue as the season goes on?

As far as being in the bubble goes, obviously it’s not ideal. It’s not what you want to be doing, but the WNBA really has made the best out of the situation. And the IMG campus is really big, so it helps that we’re not confined to one hotel or something like that. Our team even got to go to the beach last weekend. It was a private beach where it was just us there and there were protocols in place. Those kinds of things keep you sane. As far as game fatigue, I think it’s going to get progressively harder. This is our second stretch now where we have six games in a row. I think we’re definitely going to start feeling it more because it’s really hard to play every other day. Some teams have 10 games in a row, so it’s a lot.

You aren’t traveling, but you’re playing so many games back to back. How has recovery been?

Our first stretch was only four games long and we’re only just into our six game stretch now. But on days like today, we have full recovery where the whole team does something with our trainer for 20 minutes in the pool. We’re all just trying to take care of our bodies. We have NormaTec which is great. But we’re not having a bunch of practices, so you really have to lock in mentally. You have to force yourself to stay locked in because we don’t have as much time as in a normal season to scout other teams and then practice what we learn. Obviously, you always want to be locked in mentally, but you really have to hone down and focus now because there’s such a short window between games.

Thank goodness for NormaTec, right?

Seriously. It’s in my room right now.

How have the protocols been and do you think players will continue to follow all of them?

It’s been going really well with protocols, so far. I think everyone will continue to follow them because they’re working for us right now and we can see that if we keep doing this, then we’ll get to finish our season. I think the WNBA has been doing a really good job with it. We have testing every day and we have to wear our masks. They are doing a really great job with sanitizing everything and keeping things separate and just doing everything they can to make sure that everyone stays safe and healthy. So, we’re really excited and optimistic about finishing the season.

Social justice has been at the forefront of this season. How much of a factor was social justice in your decision to play?

For me, it was very important. Being in the WNBA, we all have a platform. But I think that playing gives you a bigger platform and keeps people engaged with the issues. People get fatigued hearing the same thing over and over, even though it is just as important as it was before. Playing gives us an advantage in that people are engaged in the games and we can push what we’re fighting for at the same time. I think it was really important for us, as a league, to be united this season, which is why we’ve had so much programming for victims of police brutality. We have it on our court and we have a new shirt every game.

Teams looked a little rusty in their first couple of games, but now it seems like every night someone new is going off. Do you feel like everyone has found their rhythm or do you expect there to be more ups and downs?

I think it was rough at first because one, we haven’t played in a long time. Our season was postponed and people had to come back from overseas early and not everyone had access to gym time. Even with gym time, it’s different working out compared to actually being in a game situation. So yeah, it was a little rough at first and, honestly, I think there will be ups and downs with fatigue. Like I said, it’s really hard to play so many games in a row. And if people are coming off of injuries or if they have injuries lingering or if they’re older, it will be harder. I think teams will continue to have a lot of ups and downs.

The Lynx are near the top of the league’s standings. What needs to happen to stay in championship contention?

Obviously, we need to continue to win games. We want to feel confident about the way we win them — we don’t just want to get by. For us, specifically, we are trying to cut down on turnovers. And we really struggled in the first couple of games with transition defense, but during the last couple games, we started to hone in on it. I think our transition defense is what makes the difference in our games because obviously everyone wants to be in transition. And when we can stop that transition, our half court defense is really good. So I think we need to continue our transition defense and cut down on those turnovers.

What are your expectations for the remainder of the season?

I’m excited. I really like the group of women on my team. I think our chemistry is great. So I’m excited to keep playing with them and just building. We have a lot of new players, but we’ve been able to form a group pretty quickly because we all want to play hard for each other. So far, when we have set a goal for ourselves, we have executed it in games. Like I said, our transition defense and our turnovers are progressively getting better each game. And it’s encouraging to see how coachable we are as a team. I’m excited to see what we can do this season.

We’re definitely excited to watch as fans. Last year your goal was to win Rookie of the Year and you did it. What are your personal goals for this season? 

My next big goal is to win MVP. I want to make first team All-WNBA, too. First and foremost, though, I want our team to win. So, that’s the big thing right now and that’s all I’m focusing on at the moment.

Moving into your podcast, which we are all huge fans of — we love that “locker room talk” vibe. How did the podcast, ‘Tea with A & Phee,’ come to be?

It really just stemmed from us being two young players in the league and wanting to share our perspectives on what we go through in the bubble. We feel like we’re up and coming players, and I think our perspective is a little different from people who have been in the league longer. We thought it would be interesting to talk about that and our experiences so far. Obviously, having guests on the podcast is super fun as well. We were definitely fan-girling a little before the last episode with Kevin Durant.

What are your plans with this podcast? Are you hoping to only do it while you’re in the Wubble or are you hoping to grow it? 

We want to grow it for sure. We did not think it would take off as quickly as it has, so we’re super excited to continue growing. Right now, we’re young in the league and I think it would be cool to see how our perspectives grow and our experiences change as we continue in the league. We don’t have any set plans right now, but I guess we’ll see what the future holds.

The relationship between the WNBA and the NBA is really special. Can you speak on that? There is so much love that goes in both directions. I think that’s really unique to basketball in the US.

I think it is, too. And I think it’s just love for the game. A lot of the trolling focuses on the women’s side, but people who actually play and who are serious about the sport understand how fun it is to watch both men’s and women’s. It’s two totally different styles of play. Ours is more technical and fastball, and more mentally sound than the men’s game. But the men are super fun to watch because they’re so athletic and it’s incredible the things they can do. As athletes, we understand both sides of that, the men’s and the women’s game. It goes both ways. We all love watching and supporting each other.

We’re on the outside looking in. What are we missing? What is the person who’s following the league from outside of the Wubble not seeing? 

Well, I mean, I go to practice and then back to my room! But, it’s cool to be with everyone else because you get to see them every day. You don’t get to do that in a normal season, so our relationships have definitely grown. You meet and interact more with people from other teams, too. So, it’s really cool how competitive we can be on the court and then how supportive we are off the court. Everyone is so friendly and cool with each other — that has been a really great part of the Wubble.