New Lynx guard Hiedeman valued for her versatility

Natisha Hiedeman's debut with the Lynx on Friday didn't create as big a splash as that caused by teammate Courtney Williams.

After all, Williams opened the game scoring nine points in Minnesota's 13-2 start against Chicago in a preseason-opening victory.

But look a little closer. Determined to build depth and versatility in the backcourt, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve signed Williams as a free agent and traded with Connecticut for Hiedeman.

Here was Hiedeman's line: She played 23½ minutes, scored eight points, had two steals, six assists, four rebounds. It was her steal and assist to Napheesa Collier that put the Lynx up for good. With Kayla McBride not playing, Hiedeman started with Williams.

And she sprinkled numbers all down the stat sheet, influencing the game on both ends of the court.

"She does it in practice,'' Reeve said. "She gets after people defensively. She has quick hands. She deflects a lot. You can't be up there calling a play. She has you worried about losing the ball while you're trying to get into the right play. And she's only going to get more confident.''

With McBride, Williams and Hiedeman, the Lynx might have their most backcourt depth since 2015, when Renee Montgomery and Anna Cruz backed up Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen.

Both Hiedeman and Williams can initiate the offense — Williams was an off guard until moving to the point in Chicago last year — and both can play off the ball. Both are capable of strong on-ball defense. Both can shoot the three.

But in Hiedeman the Lynx may have their best backcourt defender and player most capable of dribble penetration.

She also has one of the team's most important jobs.

Hiedeman will log big minutes both with the starting group and with the reserves. In the former she will likely be more of a facilitator, with the latter more of a primary scorer. There will be times when Reeve goes with all three guards in a smaller lineup. There will be times when Hiedeman and Bridget Carleton will be asked to hunt shots.

"I'm whatever I got to be,'' Hiedeman said.

She started 80 of 150 games with Connecticut in her first five seasons in the WNBA. Each year the Sun qualified for the playoffs, twice reaching the finals. Last season she started all 40 Sun games.

This year? She has to get to know just about every player so she can adapt to whatever role she finds herself in on a particular night.

"I'm just excited to come here,'' she said. "I just want to win. Whatever I need for us to win, that's my goal. And that's everyone's main focus. Right now we're getting better together.''

After Friday's win Reeve said she wanted Hiedeman — a career .392 three-point shooter — look for that shot more on a night when she led the team in assists and had the second-highest rebound total.

Some nights she'll be asked to break down a team with her dribble and feed other three-point shooters. Or create problems for teams on defense.

The Lynx finish their two-game preseason with a game at Washington on Wednesday morning. McBride will be back in action, so it will give fans a chance to see how Reeve uses the three-guard combo. Italian wing Cecilia Zandalasini — another three-point shooter Hiedeman will be playing extensive minutes with — will be waiting in the Twin Cities when the Lynx return.

Hiedeman has played in some big games with good teams. She thinks that should continue this season.

"It's early, still,'' she said. "But I think that's a position we can be in.''