The Lynx know how to win WNBA titles. Under coach Cheryl Reeve, they won it all in 2011 and again last summer, each with a core group that was much the same.
Sunday the Lynx will begin training camp with a rare opportunity: to try, again, to repeat as WNBA champions, something that hasn’t been done since Los Angeles did it in 2001 and 2002. Minnesota had that chance in 2012 but lost in the finals.
“It’s very rare to get that opportunity with the same group, to turn around and do it again,” Reeve said this week, between precamp meetings with assistant coaches Shelley Patterson and Jim Petersen. “So I like that.”
The starting five of Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Janel McCarville is back, as are the top eight players from last year. But there are decisions to be made. Who will fill the three roster spots held by backup center Amber Harris and wing Rachel Jarry (knee injuries) and guard Sugar Rodgers (traded) last year? Who will emerge in a multiplayer competition at the post position? Reeve is eager to see who emerges with playing time at backup guard between veteran Tan White and second-year player Lindsey Moore.
With the May 16 opener in sight, Reeve talked about the upcoming season.
Q What is the motivational chip you put on your shoulder this year?
A Well, I think the biggest chip was the last team that repeated as champions was the L.A. Sparks. You’d love to kind of move them aside in history and kind of be the first team in more than 10 years to do that. … I like that it’s probably going to be L.A. and Phoenix again [as top rivals]. San Antonio, will be in the mix. But the L.A. signings will actually put L.A. at the top of preseason picks. So I still think we have a little bit of the no-respect card to play.
Q What did you learn from the 2012 season, your first attempt to repeat as champions?
A So much. And I think we took a lot of that into 2013. We had such a great fortitude about us in 2013, no matter what happened … that tried to knock us off our stride, we were really good about letting it roll off our back and staying focused. That’s what we learned from 2012. In 2012, starting with me in the finals, that our focus was on the wrong things. And it allowed [Indiana] to get to us, and we didn’t play as well as we needed to play to win that back-to-back championship.
Q What are the biggest battles in camp?
A I think, in both perimeter and post. I think post will be the biggest battle, because that’s where we have the most question marks. Understanding who Damiris Dantas is and what her strengths are. Same thing with Waltiea Rolle, Asya Bussie, Asia Taylor. That will be interesting.
Q Are they competing for just one spot?
A We’re unclear on that. Camp will show us whether we go with [five post players on the roster or four]. I happen to really like [rookie guard] Christina Foggie. … I think she’s a really good player, and Tricia Liston, who was picked 12th. I think there is competition for the roster spots. For the actual minutes, it’s different.
Q Is [first-round draft pick] Liston fighting for the spot Rachel Jarry held last year?
A We can look at Tricia and say she fills what Rachel gave us. And then we go from there. And then [replacing] Amber and Sugar. Is it two posts? Or will Foggie impress us enough that we do something different? And, obviously, Tan White is a veteran who is good. It will be our toughest decision, whether we go 7-5 [with five posts] or 6-4. And we like Maya at [power forward], which is something we really don’t do enough.
Q Do you expect Lindsey Moore to make a big strides?
A I watched Lindsey so much in her career at Nebraska, and each year you saw the evolution of her career. I’d be surprised if she didn’t make a jump. There is a lot of competition there for her with Monica Wright and Tan White. Her trying to carve out minutes, that will be her big challenge.
Q What else can Maya Moore do?
A More than anything, as players get older, the veterans are more calm, more collected, more unfazed by things. I think, for the most part, Maya has been that way. But Maya has her emotional highs. Never really emotional lows. I think just getting to that place of being dependable. Now, when you get a silly foul, making sure you don’t get a second one. … I think things like that. I think Maya, last year, took the two steps we wanted her to take, both on defense and offense.
Q Does each team each year have its own personality, even when there aren’t big changes in personnel?
A It’s fascinating. I could have the same 11 players from last year come into this year’s camp, and life happens to people. Their wants, needs, desires change. And so, if I brought the same 11 players back, it would be different. Who’s playing well, who’s playing great? Who’s not playing great? That all changes from year to year. In this case, we know what to expect. We know what Whalen will give us, [Augustus], Maya, Brunson, McCarville. … But it was something people don’t realize. From 2011 to 2012, I think we only had two personnel changes, but the effect of those two changes was something we did feel. Every year is different, and it’s fun to figure out.