Imagine Brad Childress starting Vikings training camp in July without Tarvaris Jackson, Adrian Peterson and Kevin Williams. Or Ron Gardenhire opening spring training minus Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan.


But, in the WNBA, that's the predicament second-year Lynx coach Don Zierden faces today.

Nine rookies, three players with one year of league experience, and two mysterious late arrivals whose names won't be disclosed until they sign will be in camp on the first day.

Nine players are missing, including returning starters Seimone Augustus, Lindsey Harding and Nicole Ohlde, and Candice Wiggins, the No. 3 pick in April's WNBA draft.

Does he wish everyone was here?

"I absolutely do," Zierden said. "But at the same time, I experienced this a bit in my CBA days. A lot of our players went to NBA training camps and did not come to ours until they got cut."

The absences in the WNBA are for much different reasons. Harding and Wiggins are playing on a U.S. national team in Beijing.

Augustus and six other veterans are competing overseas.

It's a money issue. The maximum WNBA salary last season was capped at $93,000. League players can make double or triple that overseas.

All the absent players are expected to trickle in between April 30 and mid-May.

"It will be a little challenging early," Zierden said, "but we will have a chance to look at some other players."

Which is good for them. Most of the players in camp now have training camp contracts only. Most won't make the team.

"But all will have an opportunity to be seen," Zierden said. "We have some players coming in so late that probably all [those here today] will still be on the roster when we play Connecticut on May 1."

That game will be the first of the Lynx's three exhibition games.

"A lot of times in this league, three, four days into camp, you start cutting players," Zierden said. "That will not be the case for us the first 10 days."

The Lynx have 23 players, counting veteran Vanessa Hayden-Johnson, who re-signed Friday. She sat out last season after having a baby.

"We definitely did not set out to have that many on the roster," Zierden said, "but due to the many involved in playoff situations ..."

The number kept growing as Roger Griffith, the Lynx chief operating officer, kept signing more players at Zierden's urging.

"What I would like to do is have three players at each position," Zierden said. "Ideally, you want 15 in camp."

At cutting time, though, a smaller camp roster has its advantages.

"[Cutting players] is the worst part of my job," said Zierden, whose coaching career began at DeLaSalle in 1985, "whether it was way back in high school and especially at this level. They are trying to make it at the pro level. Every day I cut somebody, I will go home with bad feeling in my stomach."

Among the players Zierden and his staff, which includes new assistants Julie Plank and Jennifer Gillom, will scrutinize the most early are the team's second and third picks in the recent draft: center Nicky Anosike and forward Charde Houston.

The roster has to be down to 13 players, including two on the inactive list, by May 16, two days before the Lynx's season opener at home against Detroit.

Minnesota's next game is nine days later, at Houston.

"At first that [gap] was disappointing," Zierden said, "but it may turn out to be blessing. We'll have everybody by then, and we can have another mini-training camp."

Those schedule-makers had to be clairvoyant ... or perhaps former coaches.