Lynx aim to build on championship success

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 2, 2011 - 1:13 AM

Even while celebrating a long-awaited WNBA title, the team looks to build on its success and a possible repeat.

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The WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx

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Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve had one last bit of advice for her players before they scattered overseas to join their winter pro teams in Russia, Turkey, the Czech Republic and elsewhere.

Bask in the excitement, enjoy the moment, Reeve told them the first few days after they won the WNBA championship on Friday. Don't take anything for granted.

Keep working hard seemed to be her underlying message because the Lynx could win their second title next season.

"In your championship runs, you have a window," Reeve said during a celebration for the players at Target Center following a parade in downtown Minneapolis. "You have a combination of young players, older players and you maximize that. For us, it looks like we should be good for a little while longer."

All the Lynx's core players, except Taj McWilliams-Franklin, are either young or in their late 20s, the prime of their careers. And if the Lynx re-sign Candice Wiggins and McWilliams-Franklin, who turns 41 on Oct. 20, their top six players will be back.

Reeve said she has a good feeling about McWilliams-Franklin deciding to keep playing rather than retiring.

"Her experience here with the Lynx was one of the best of her entire professional career," Reeve said, "so that bodes well for us. It's her body. If her body feels good in February?

"I don't think she wants to play for anybody else."

Why would she? The Lynx roared through the regular season with a 27-7 record, one shy of the WNBA record for victories, and stomped the opposition 7-1 in the playoffs. They were 19-3 at Target Center.

"We were the best team all year, and we can say that now," point guard Lindsay Whalen said, "because we were. We had the most talent and we played together."

And the Lynx had the league's rookie of the year, Maya Moore.

"Landing Maya -- it was kind of unfair maybe," said Reeve, who knew Seimone Augustus and Wiggins were returning healthy this season. "But we didn't give [Moore] back."

Augustus and Moore were both No. 1 overall picks in their draft years, 2006 and '11.

It's possible the Lynx could have the top pick in 2012, too, or for sure one of the top four. They obtained that high pick in a trade with Washington. The Mystics didn't make the playoffs, so their pick goes into the draft lottery.

Reeve said the Lynx, who had four starters named to the Western Conference all-star team, don't really have a strong need to fill with that No. 1 pick or their own No. 12 in the first round.

"And some of the things that we need exist in our own club," Reeve said. "We've got some players that can play better and contribute more."

She told her bench players who want to play more, they need to earn their court time.

"There is going to be some changes because that is what sports teams do," said Roger Griffith, the Lynx's executive vice president. "You don't have the exact same roster from one year to the next."

"Other people are trying to catch us now," he said. "We are the champions."

In the WNBA, mini-dynasties have been common. Houston won the first four league championships from 1997-2000. Los Angeles won titles in 2001 and '02. Detroit and Phoenix each won two in three years, the Shock from 2006-08, the Mercury from 2007-09.

McWilliams-Franklin was on Detroit's 2008 title team.

"There were people still in Detroit that didn't know we had two titles before we won the third one when I was there," she said. "Here I walked into Wal-Mart last night and had people stopping me in the aisle, saying, 'Thank you so much.'"

And the window of opportunity for the Lynx remains ajar.

"We are pretty young," Whalen said. "It should be fun for a lot of years."

We had the most talent and we played together."

And the Lynx had the league's rookie of the year, Maya Moore.

"Landing Maya -- it was kind of unfair maybe," said Reeve, who knew Seimone Augustus and Wiggins were returning healthy this season. "But we didn't give [Moore] back."

Augustus and Moore were both No. 1 overall picks in their draft years, 2006 and '11.

It's possible the Lynx could have the top pick in 2012, too, or for sure one of the top four. They obtained that high pick in a trade with Washington. The Mystics didn't make the playoffs, so their pick goes into the draft lottery.

Reeve said the Lynx, who had four starters named to the Western Conference all-star team, don't really have a strong need to fill with that No. 1 pick or their own No. 12 in the first round.

"And some of the things that we need exist in our own club," Reeve said. "We've got some players that can play better and contribute more."

She told her bench players who want to play more, they need to earn their court time.

"There is going to be some changes because that is what sports teams do," said Roger Griffith, the Lynx's executive vice president. "You don't have the exact same roster from one year to the next."

"Other people are trying to catch us now," he said. "We are the champions."

In the WNBA, mini-dynasties have been common. Houston won the first four league championships from 1997-2000. Los Angeles won titles in 2001 and '02. Detroit and Phoenix each won two in three years, the Shock from 2006-08, the Mercury from 2007-09.

McWilliams-Franklin was on Detroit's 2008 title team.

"There were people still in Detroit that didn't know we had two titles before we won the third one when I was there," she said. "Here I walked into Wal-Mart last night and had people stopping me in the aisle, saying, 'Thank you so much.'"

And the window of opportunity for the Lynx remains ajar.

"We are pretty young," Whalen said. "It should be fun for a lot of years."

WHERE WILL THEY GO?

All 11 of the Lynx players are expected to play overseas this winter, where players' salaries usually are double or more what WNBA players earn. Here is where the Lynx are scattering to and their contract status for next season:

Signed for 2012

G Seimone Augustus: Playing for Sparta and K in Vidnoye, Russia near Moscow. Signed for next two years.

F Rebekkah Brunson: Playing for Nadezhda in Orenburg, Russia. Signed for next three years.

C/F Amber Harris: Playing for Besiktas near Istanbul, Turkey. Signed for next three years.

G Maya Moore: Playing for Ros Casares in Valencia, Spain. Signed for next two years.

G Lindsay Whalen: Playing for USK Praha in Prague, Czech Republic. Signed multiyear contract at end of 2010 season.

G Monica Wright: Playing for Botas in Adana,Turkey. Signed for next two years.

Unsigned for 2012

C Jessica Adair: Playing for Tarsus, Turkey. A reserve player. The Lynx have exclusive negotiating rights for now.

G Alexis Hornbuckle: Overseas team undecided. Last played for Tarsus, Turkey. Restricted free agent.

F Charde Houston: Overseas team undecided. Last played for Elizur Ramla, Israel in 2010-11. Restricted free agent.

C Taj McWilliams-Franklin: Overseas team undecided. Last played for Spartak Moscow in 2010-11. Unrestricted free agent.

G Candice Wiggins: Overseas team undecided. Last played for Athinaikos in Athens, Greece in 2009-10. Restricted free agent.

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