MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — How does a head coach keep a championship team hungry? Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve has just the motivation: She wants the Lynx to become the first WNBA team to win back-to-back titles in 10 years.
“It’s kind of nice for me that there’s still some more to dangle in front of them,” Reeve said.
The last team to repeat was the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002, and the Lynx aren’t hiding that hope to join them. Actually, they’re feeling more than that.
“I feel like we’re getting so much better if that’s even, like, possible,” said Candice Wiggins, their best player off the bench.
Whether that leads to the title or not? The Lynx and the rest of the league will find out over the next five months, but they’re bringing plenty of bravado with them on their quest.
“It’s a calm I have. I’m really confident with our team,” Wiggins said. The fifth-year shooting guard paused to daydream a little bit.
“Honestly, this one might feel better than the last one. It’s a totally different mentality,” Wiggins said.
The Lynx had their whole team together on Monday for the first time this year, the entire roster finally returned from their respective overseas clubs. There were hugs and happy faces all over the practice court as players posed for photographs, recorded promotional videos and took questions from reporters.
Their top nine scorers from last season are back, including 41-year-old starting center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who put off retirement again at Reeve’s request.
“I’m back again to be a mentor, as I ride out into the sunset,” McWilliams-Franklin said.
Rookie Devereaux Peters, the team’s first-round draft pick, third overall out of Notre Dame, will be her primary protegee. McWilliams-Franklin has already viewed video of Peters in college in order to prepare for the tutelage. Peters, like her elder, can play either the power forward or the center position.
“I see a lot of younger me in her, and I think she can help the Minnesota Lynx for many years down the line,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “She’s an unselfish player. She’s great on defense and has a tenacity and kind of a swag that all players don’t have in that ‘4’ position.”
Peters is also an adept passer, an important complementary skill to point guard Lindsay Whalen’s precision and flashy feeds in Reeve’s offense.
“Which we definitely need because I’ve been taking most of the passing, and I can’t continue to play 36 minutes a game no matter how much I want to play,” McWilliams-Franklin said.
The season opens on May 20 with a home game against the Phoenix Mercury. After posting a WNBA-best 27-7 record last year during the regular season, the Lynx lost only one of their eight playoff games. So after all those years of losing, their All-Star-stacked lineup led by Seimone Augustus won’t be able to take any of their opponents by surprise.
“That’s what you want. We wanted to walk in here saying we were the best team. We worked really hard last year, and we earned that right,” Reeve said.
Said small forward Maya Moore: “Anytime you’re talking about dynasties or multiple championships, it’s a very, very hard task. Right now we’re just focused on training camp.”
Keeping that perspective will go a long way.
“We had a lot of fun last year, and that was a big key,” Whalen said. “Of course you’re going to work hard and there’s going to be ups and downs, but if you kind of stay in the moment and stay together and have fun with it then good things can happen.”
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