Anna Cruz played a key defensive role for the Lynx in 2015, particularly off the bench during their playoff run that ended in a third WNBA title in five seasons. This year, she trained for the early part of the season with the Spanish national team — which ended up getting the silver medal in the Rio Games after falling to the Lynx-heavy U.S. squad. But now the guard is back in a familiar place, ready to help Minnesota as it embarks on what it hopes is another championship run. Cruz chatted recently about that with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q What are the challenges of transitioning back into the team in the middle of the season?
A I mean, I played here last year so it’s easier. I played with a lot of the same players, and I know the coach and all the plays. So it’s OK. The first week was hard, but now I’m OK.
Q Did you gain any more of an appreciation for your teammates by playing against them in the Olympics?
A No, it was the same. We played the final against each other, and it was fun. For Spain, it was a big thing to win the silver medal. For us it’s like the gold medal.
Q What does it mean to you to represent your country in the Olympics?
A For me, it was my first Olympic Games. Everyone was excited to be there. We had to qualify before. I think it was a big thing for the entire country.
Q When you get into the playoffs, does the game change at all — and if so, how do you prepare for that?
A It’s different. We have different roles. I talked to the coach before and she told me my role will be different from the last year. I’m just going to do my best to help the team every time I’m out there and play my role.
Q You had a big role last year, particularly on defense. What do you remember from last year’s championship run?
A It was hard, but at the same time it was fun. I enjoyed being part of the team, and I hope this year we do it the same way.
Q What stands out to you about this team and how it’s been able to be so good for so long?
A We have a lot of good players. Playing here is like playing with the U.S. national team. They make me a better player.
Q What have you learned since you’ve been playing with the Lynx?
A To be stronger with the ball and to make the right decision every time.
Q I know English isn’t your first language, but I’m told you’ve been working hard on your skills and I’m impressed. Are you more comfortable doing interviews than you were?
A I’m trying. I’ve worked a little bit. I try to tell [the Lynx] that I don’t want to do interviews [laughs], but they keep sending me over here.
Q Well, you’re probably going to have to keep doing it if the Lynx keep playing so well. What was the key down the stretch for this team, overtaking Los Angeles and getting the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs?
A We work so hard every day, and we play every day like it’s the finals. I think now in the playoffs we’ll have to be even better. But that’s what we work for.