At first, Shelley Patterson wanted no part of the comparison.
Patterson is an assistant coach for the Lynx, who just finished a dominant 7-0 run through the WNBA playoffs. Appearing in their third consecutive championship series, the Lynx swept Atlanta to win their second title.
Patterson was director of basketball operations for the Houston Comets in 1999, the year that team won the third of four league titles in a row. She saw the trio of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson dominate. When the subject of WNBA greatness comes up, the early Comets teams are where the discussion begins.
So Patterson was asked to compare. Given how far the women’s game has come in the last decade-plus, how much more athletic the league is, given how dominant the Lynx were this season while taking back a title lost a year ago, if these Lynx played those Comets, who would win?
Or, stated more boldly: Have the Lynx joined the conversation when it comes to the best teams in league history?
Patterson initially hemmed and hawed, demurred. But, Thursday night?
“This team would win,” Patterson said of the Lynx, 80-22 in the regular season and 19-5 in the playoffs since the start of the 2011 season. “I don’t want to disrespect what the [Comets] did. But I will say that the game has grown so much. The sets we run, the game planning that we do for each game, the athletic level of the league? The Lynx would have to be one of the great teams in league history, at this point.”
Thirteen years removed from the last Comets title, the Lynx have their big three of Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen. That trio has won multiple WNBA titles and Olympic gold. They and fellow All-Star Rebekkah Brunson have been a part of the past three Lynx teams and will be together going forward.
Already Minnesota is one of just four teams to appear in at least three consecutive championship series. Like the Los Angeles Sparks (2001-03) and the since-relocated Detroit Shock (2006-08), the Lynx went 2-for-3.
Is it time to start talk of a dynasty?
“We sure set ourselves up for it,” Moore said after Thursday’s victory. “We’ll see. I think we have huge potential.”
In mix for the best
ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo was there.
She was a rookie on the New York Liberty team that lost to the Comets in the championship of the inaugural 1997 season. She played against the great Comets teams and the Sparks teams that followed.
So where do the Lynx rank?
“It’s hard to say,” Lobo said. “I mean, think about it. Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper, with Tina in the post? They set the standard that every other team will be compared to. But, for this generation of WNBA teams, this Minnesota team is very, very good.”
And with the potential of joining the discussion of greatest teams. Lobo already puts the Lynx at least on a par with those great Sparks teams led by Lisa Leslie. And what if the Lynx win another title?