Lindsay Whalen’s homecoming has been extended.
Whalen, the Lynx’s All-Star point guard, signed a multiyear contract extension at practice Friday, just before the team left for the airport for its final road trip of the regular season. Terms and length of the deal were not disclosed.
“It’s very exciting to spend so many great years here playing,” said Whalen, a Hutchinson native who was a star at the University of Minnesota. Whalen began her WNBA career in Connecticut before coming back home to the Lynx in a blockbuster trade before the 2010 season. “We have a great core, great coaches, a great group. So it wasn’t a hard decision. It was a pretty easy one.”
And, at age 31 and in her 10th WNBA season, Whalen might be having her best year. She is averaging career highs in points (14.7) and assists (6.0) and was in the last year of her present contract. Entering Saturday’s game at Seattle, Whalen needs just nine points to reach 4,000 for her career and become the second player in league history with 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds.
Whalen has been the on-court leader for a team that has gone 77-21 in regular-season play since the start of the 2011 season. The Lynx have been to the WNBA Finals two consecutive seasons, winning the league title in their first appearance.
“To have one of the greatest point guards ever to play in our league committed long-term to our organization is a testament to two things,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “One, obviously, how good she is. And, two, her belief in being here in Minnesota, with our fans, trying to continue what we have going on.”
The Lynx hit the road for three games, the first two in Seattle, the third in Los Angeles against the Sparks. It should be clear by the time the Lynx arrive in L.A. whether that game will be a crucial one. With a two-game lead over the Sparks, the Lynx would clinch first place in the Western Conference with any combination of Lynx wins or L.A. losses adding up to two.
It would be the team’s third conference championship in a row, yet another indication of Whalen’s importance.
“Any coach will tell you that when you have a point guard who understands not only the system, what we’re trying to do, but also understands each of the players she’s playing with, that becomes a very, very important piece,” Reeve said.
Whalen has been named to the all-WNBA first team twice, is a four-time league All-Star and was a member — along with teammates Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus — of the U.S. gold medal-winning team in the 2012 London Olympics.
This offseason she will play for Dynamo Moscow, a Russian team that is the defending EuroCup champion.
“It’s been very special to be able to play at home,” Whalen said. “I’ve been able to create so many great memories. … Not everybody gets to do that. So I know I’m in a very special situation.”