Napheesa Collier brings ‘basketball IQ’ in return to Lynx

(David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Napheesa Collier made her return to the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday less than three months after giving birth to daughter Mila.

The 25-year-old forward helped the team to a 81-71 win over the Atlanta Dream. She came back to the court just over 10 weeks after welcoming daughter Mila in late May.

Collier’s first bucket was a 3-pointer, her first of six points on the night. She also contributed two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. She played 21 minutes total, which is more than coach Cheryl Reeve anticipated in her return. Previously, the coach had said that Collier could join the team in “spot situations.”

“She’s got to catch up with the speed of the game and as things are happening, but that’s probably about as successful as I thought it could be, playing probably a bit longer than what we initially thought,” Reeve said.

The 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year wasn’t meant to play Sunday, but when it became clear that Aerial Powers would miss the game – which was key to the Lynx’s continued playoff chase – Collier opted to play.

While she dealt with “some nerves,” Collier said that it was a “good first game back” and that she knew her body was ready.

“I was really excited,” Collier said, with Mila joining her postgame. “Obviously, there’s some nerves coming in, especially this late in the season and trying to get back here and rush to do everything. But it felt so good to hear my name called and have the fans cheer for me. It was a really good feeling. So I’m really glad I played tonight.”

The forward had made her intention to return this season clear, with Collier wanting to join teammate Sylvia Fowles on the court in her final season. But for the Lynx, her return brought an added boost.

“Her energy, her movement, it just creates easier things for other people, and her length defensively is pretty helpful,” Reeve said. “She’s like a security blanket for everybody.”

Teammate Kayla McBride, who led the Lynx with 20 points and six assists in the win, echoed the sentiment.

“It’s her basketball IQ,” McBride said of what she brings to the team. “She’s always in the right place at the right time… She always competes, you know what you’re getting from Phee is that consistency… It felt like everything was back to normal.”