Reusse extra: WNBA players never get a break

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2011 - 6:38 AM
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Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen cut to the basket against Dream's Lindsey Harding during the first half of the first game of the WNBA finals at Target Center in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Their summer job already has lasted three weeks longer than normal for players with the Lynx. It could be a full month, if underdog Atlanta was to wind up taking the Lynx a full five games in the WNBA Finals.

On occasion, you will hear ballplayers complain about the number of exhibition games that are played in Florida before the start of a 26-week, 162-game regular season. You will hear NHL players who were involved in a deep playoff run say that it seemed as if there was no offseason.

NBA players also have mentioned that, although it is not a topic at the forefront these days, with an owners' lockout that eventually could cause the 2011-12 season to be cancelled.

The NFL players also went through a lockout. One issue on which they succeeded was to limit the amount of time that they could be ordered to the team facility to participate in workouts and/or practices.

It is a different life for WNBA players. Even the best don't get the big bucks for a regular season that runs from early June to mid-September. And that means players with a chance to make money overseas generally do so.

The European teams assemble in October and play into the spring, depending on what happens in the playoffs. That means more than a few WNBA

players go from Europe to the WNBA, and back to Europe, without a break.

Lindsay Whalen will be in that category this year. She is heading back to Prague to play a fifth consecutive season for USK Praha. Before that, she played the 2005-06 season in Ekaterinburg -- a Russian city located near the Ural Mountains.

"When are you going to Prague?'' Whalen was asked after the Lynx advanced through the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

Whalen: "They are expecting me as soon as we're done here.''

Maya Moore was a superstar at Connecticut and the no-brainer No. 1 choice in the WNBA draft for the Lynx. It has been her presence -- along with the return to health of Siemone Augustus -- that has transformed the Lynx from perpetual also-rans to the league's most-dynamic team.

Moore isn't going to jump immediately into European basketball. She's going to take off a couple of months before joining the powerhouse Ros Casares team in Valencia, Spain.

Augustus played her first two overseas seasons for Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Super League. She moved to the Istanbul-based Galatasaray team in 2008-09. She missed the next season after ACL surgery. She played a full schedule -- 34 games in the Turkish League, 12 more games in the EuroLeague -- during the 2010-11 season.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin is the Grand Dame of the WNBA. She will turn 41 on Oct. 20. She was signed as a free agent by the Lynx on Feb. 18, 2011 and has given them a much-needed presence inside.

She also has done the double-duty, playing in both the WNBA and in Europe (with a couple of exceptions) since 1999. She started in Spain and wound up playing for Spartak Moscow.

Charde Houston also played with two teams overseas: in Slovakia and later Israel. She also has played in France and was Whalen's teammate in Prague a couple of years ago.

Alexis Hornbuckle has played in Israel, Turkey and Finland over the past two European seasons.

Rebekkah Brunson, another Lynx veteran, has been playing in Europe since the fall of 2004. She played in Belgium, Russia and Italy, before having a standout 2010-11 season for Ros Casares.

Brunson averaged 16.5 points and 9.2 rebounds last season to help lead Ros Casares to the EuroLeague's Final Four. She was named as a EuroLeague All-Star. She's going to play in Russia this winter.

One key Lynx player who has decided to forego year-round basketball is guard Candice Wiggins. She came out of Stanford in 2008 and did the European deal for a couple of winters.

Wiggins played for Ros Casares in 2008-09. She had an outstanding season in Greece for Athinaikos in 2009-10. The team won three titles -- EuroCup, Greek Cup and Greek A1 League -- and Candice was named as the EuroCup Player of the Year.

She spent last winter back home in Southern California and plans to do the same after the Lynx season.

"There's a lot I want to do with my life,'' she said in a recent interview. "It isn't all basketball.''

For most of her teammates, it's exactly that -- basically, non-stop basketball in the WNBA and then in Europe.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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