TOKYO — The Lynx contingent at the Rio Olympics stayed on a yacht, in part because of housing shortages, partly to stay safe in a volatile country.
The Lynx experienced more mandatory bonding in 2020, playing in a quarantine bubble — aka The Wubble, with the W referring to the WNBA — in Florida.
A revised version of their typical Olympic crew is in Tokyo, staying in a hotel, and because of the pandemic, they are effectively quarantined. Like prisoners, they yearn for moments of sunlight on their faces, and air that doesn't smell like hotel disinfectant.
"This is very different, very different,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, an assistant to USA head coach Dawn Staley. "Just the fresh air we get when we leave the hotel and get on the bus, or when we leave the arena and we have a few minutes to sit outside and get some Vitamin D.
"Very unique experiences. I think everybody has talked about, `Yeah, it's unfortunate, but we have to deal with the task at hand and we'll all be OK.'"
The task in their frequently disinfected hands is winning a seventh straight Olympic gold medal. Reeve and two of her players — center Sylvia Fowles and forward Napheesa Collier — are representing the Lynx and Team USA's imminent transition.
Fowles, 35, has been a center and centerpiece of two basketball dynasties, the Lynx and Team USA. Collier. 24, is in the Olympics for the first time and probably will play a small role, as she tries to become part of the Americans' next wave.
"Syl is nearing the end and for Napheesa it's her first one, so it's very, very special," Reeve said. "I feel lucky to have a really good seat to watch them compete. Phee has been eyes wide open, just looking around. This is really going to benefit her when it's all said and done.
"The level of play she's going to see, just the journey, going with players who have already been here. It's incredible valuable."
To help her transition, Reeve said, "I yell at her, just so she can feel at home."
Given Lynx history, Collier's presence is a reminder that honors like making the national team can involve luck and timing.
Former Lynx star Rebekkah Brunson won five WNBA titles and set what was then the record for career rebounds — a mark broken by Fowles — but never played in an Olympics. Collier made it during her third season. She can only hope that Olympic rings and championship rings are in her future.
"That's the nature of this," Reeve said. "You're not going to be able to bring every player that is talented. Rebekkah has five rings, she's the second-leading rebounder. It's just not possible to include all of the great players, so these are first-world problems for USAB."
The U.S. women begin play on Tuesday in Tokyo (Monday night in Minnesota) against Nigeria. After being one of the American flag-bearers in the Opening Ceremony, point guard Sue Bird will try for her fifth Olympic gold medal.
The U.S. is favored to win. Bird is engaged to U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, whose team lost its Olympic opener, 3-0, to Sweden. Both know that historical dominance means less as the world tries to catch up.
"We talk about that all the time," Bird said. "When you've got USA on your chest, that's what it is."
Reeve and Fowles have spent copious time together in bubbles or quarantines. Fowles said they didn't bring board games.
"My time, I pretty much just eat and go back to the room," Fowles said. "Every now and then, I go to the seventh floor, where we do testing. They have a little balcony area, so I'll sit up there and spend some time. But as boring as the bubble may be, it's a good time to just spend time with yourself and learn more about yourself in these moments."Meet the Minnesotans: