Montell Jordan will perform at halftime of the Lynx season opener Sunday. Jordan’s biggest hit is “This Is How We Do It,” which might as well be the recruiting pitch the Lynx make when in search of a new player.
The Lynx are the most successful WNBA franchise this decade, but in basketball, winning teams aren’t always the most attractive to incoming players.
The Lynx starting lineup feature two former MVPs, four Olympians and the only player to win five WNBA titles. There are limited minutes and shots available to newcomers, and basketball stars, at least in the NBA, are not always generous or tolerant when dealing with newcomers.
Michael Jordan was infamously tough on teammates, as was Kobe Bryant, who couldn’t coexist with Shaquille O’Neal. Minnesotans always will remember Stephon Marbury choosing not to play with Kevin Garnett, one of the most unselfish superstars of his era.
The Lynx have attracted quality players with factors that could fill a sales brochure. They play before enthusiastic crowds, by WNBA standards. They win. Their best players are unselfish. And the coaching staff and organization have become known for treating players well, which includes coach Cheryl Reeve insisting that players “be themselves.”
“People want to play here,” Reeve said. “Yeah, we’ve got a great fan base, a great owner, great facilities, a great media following, but it’s really, really about who they’re going to play with.
“Lindsay, Seimone, Maya, Rebekkah have developed a reputation that they’re not only tremendous players, but they’re tremendous people, and it’s real, it’s authentic and people want to be their teammates. It’s that simple.”
Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson have built networks through USA Basketball and international play. When Sylvia Fowles decided not to play for Chicago and forced a trade, she decided she wanted to play in Minnesota.
At the time, Fowles professed a love for Chicago but said something was “lacking.” In Minnesota, she has bonded with Augustus, her former LSU teammate, and shared the ball with Moore, a superstar willing to take fewer shots to get the ball inside to Fowles.
“Thinking about Syl and her process of coming here, I think it was a combination of her knowing what was here and us making her feel welcomed,” Moore said. “In the offseason, our coaches do a good job of communicating with potential players, and we sometimes do as well. I think we do have the luxury of people seeing what we have here, by playing against us, watching us, seeing our chemistry, seeing our atmosphere that the fans have created, and it’s great. That helps us in getting great players here.”
With all five starters from a championship team returning, Reeve, the general manager and coach, tried to build a strong bench.
She traded for speedster Danielle Robinson, and signed forward Lynette Kizer and defensive specialist Tanisha Wright, who was retired and working as an assistant coach at North Carolina- Charlotte.
“Coach does a good job of selling the organization,” Kizer said. “Not that she has to say much. And then when we get here, everything she says about the organization is what she said. It may not be that way 100 percent of the time [with other teams].”
“I thought it was a good fit for me,” Wright said. “There were other teams, too. For me, it really was a matter of want and need. I want to be in a place that needed me — but wanted me as well. I didn’t want to go to a place that just wanted me for my veteran leadership. I wanted to be on the court.”
The Lynx’s stability means there are few surprises for new players.
“The team wins,” Reeve said. “Maybe if we weren’t winning, then we’re just nice people. That’s not the case. And I think there’s some history overseas. Lindsay and Tanisha played together.
“There’s a lot to sell here, but the No. 1 selling point is our players.”
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org