So what do you do after winning a third WNBA title in five years, then celebrating with a private Prince concert at Paisley Park?
You get to bed late, wake up too early and try to just soak it all in.
“It’s like when you’re in a wedding and you need to go back and look at stuff because you can’t remember all that happened,” coach Cheryl Reeve said.
She answered e-mails and texts, met with the players. Oh, and she took a congratulatory call — along with the rest of the team — from President Obama.
And then she started looking forward. So what are you going to do to follow this? Simple question, complex answer.
There is free agency to navigate — including her own — with the idea of keeping the roster as deep as it was by the time the championship was won Wednesday. There is the draft to prepare for.
But Reeve would like to start here: She wants people to know that the much-discussed imminent death of Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen’s careers was greatly exaggerated. Ditto for Rebekkah Brunson.
“It’s a natural question, a natural narrative,” she said. “I think those players are still in their prime. … Maybe the later stages of their prime. They are not in decline from a basketball standpoint. I think it’s ludicrous to say that. Next year I might say I was wrong. But I’ve seen when it’s time to stick a fork in it. Not even close, with any of the three.”
Augustus will be 32 at the start of the next WNBA season, Whalen and Brunson both 34.
To Reeve, the difficulties Augustus and Whalen had, in particular, were more matters of health than age. Augustus lost a month after knee surgery, another with a midfoot sprain. Whalen was dogged by ankle bursitis and a sore Achilles.
“Each of them, along with Rebekkah, have to look at choices they make looking forward,” Reeve said. “They have to increase their attention to some of the things that you do to sustain a certain level athletically.”
Reeve believes this is especially important with an Olympic year looming next summer. But she believes that a healthy Augustus and Whalen will return to form. Whalen is expected to skip playing overseas this season to get healthy. Their health and the opportunity to have a full training camp to get center Sylvia Fowles fully integrated into the offense will be a plus.
That said, the Lynx have to structure a team with the depth that will allow Reeve to take minutes off her older players. They had that by the time this year ended, with Renee Montgomery and Anna Cruz playing well off the bench.
“A lot of times, after a championship, you don’t make many changes,” Reeve said. “That won’t be the case this year. We’ll see changes.”
Montgomery and backup center Asjha Jones are unrestricted free agents. Given Montgomery’s play in the finals, she might be hard to keep. Cruz’s obligation to the Spanish team might affect her availability next summer. The Lynx could be looking for depth at guard and in the post. The good news, Reeve said, is that there is a lot of talent in free agency; she said she would not rule out the possibility of Janel McCarville returning in a backup role. The Lynx, who traded their first-round pick in the Fowles deal, will pick at the top of the second round (13th) thanks to the Seattle trade that brought Montgomery here. Devereaux Peters is a restricted free agent.
Reeve, too, is about to be a free agent, her contract set to expire at the end of the year. Talks are expected to begin late this month or in early November on a new deal. It would be a surprise if she didn’t re-sign.
But even a healthier Lynx team will find the landscape in the league’s Western Conference more difficult to navigate. The Shock, which will move to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, was leading the conference before star guard Skylar Diggins was lost for the season with a knee injury. Seattle, young and talented, will have the top pick in the draft. In Los Angeles, Candace Parker, who took the first half of the 2015 season off, should be back.
And, in Phoenix, star guard Diana Taurasi, after a summer of rest, is expected to return to the team she led to the 2014 title.