A couple of years ago, Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin told a reporter that she views herself a bit like a superhero.
Like all superheroes "she will go wherever her services are needed," said Reggie Franklin, her husband, "where she is appreciated and needed."
The Lynx are her fifth WNBA team in the past six years, and until this season they were certainly among the league's most downtrodden teams.
In their first 12 seasons, the Lynx had winning seasons only twice, and 2003 and 2004 were the years they advanced to the playoffs. In both postseason appearances, they lost their opening series.
This season McWilliams-Franklin's presence has been one of the keys to a historic and remarkable turnaround. The Lynx, whose high-water mark before was a tie for third place in its conference, had the best record in the league at 27-7, six victories clear of their closest pursuer.
The Lynx won their first playoff series -- 2-1 over San Antonio -- and are a win away from winning their second. They lead Phoenix 1-0 in the best-of-three Western Conference finals, which resume Sunday in Arizona.
McWilliams-Franklin, who turns 41 next month, scored 14 points and had four assists as the Lynx routed the Mercury 95-67 on Thursday at Target Center.
Two nights earlier, she had nearly identical numbers -- 16 points, four assists -- as the Lynx eliminated the Silver Stars 85-67.
The guards started looking for her and Rebekkah Brunson, the other 6-2 post, more the past two games. "We got some easy looks," said McWilliams-Franklin, who was limited to nine points total in the first two games of the San Antonio series.
McWilliams-Franklin is unique in several ways. She prefers shooting lefthanded near the basket but shoots outside jumpers with her dominant right hand. She stopped taking shots in shootarounds and pregame practices 10 years ago. "I am going to need those shots to go in [in games]," McWilliams-Franklin said. "I can't waste them."
During games, she is energy-efficient, too. No wasted running around.
"She understands when to exert herself and when not to," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said Friday on WCCO Radio, "and because she is able to pick her spots, those type of things have lengthened her career.
"Taj will always have a tremendous mind for the game so even if she experiences some physical decline, which is natural as you move into your 40s, mentally she will always have it and will always be valuable."
Assistant coach Jim Petersen is another fan of McWilliams-Franklin. "Her versatility is her calling card," Petersen said. "She has the ability to hit perimeter jump shots and she has the ability to post up inside and make something happen."
For the past five years, McWilliams-Franklin has been considering retirement. Her recent contracts have all been for one year. She said she will decide a few months before the 2012 season whether she will re-sign with the Lynx.
"[It] has to be the right coach and right situation -- that's very important -- and a place family-oriented with off-court activities," McWilliams-Franklin said.
Her husband and her youngest of three daughters, Maia, 8, joined her in the Twin Cities for two months this summer. They live in San Antonio most of the year, and so does McWilliams-Franklin when she isn't playing basketball in the WNBA or overseas.
Reggie Franklin said his wife takes care of herself so well she could play another couple of years, probably with the Lynx. "I'll leave it up to her, but I don't see why she would leave," he said.
This is her 13th WNBA season. McWilliams-Franklin will play in her 52nd playoff game Sunday, four shy of the record held by Becky Hammon of San Antonio. She played on Connecticut teams that reached the WNBA finals in 2004 and 2005 and on Detroit's championship team in 2008.
McWilliams-Franklin, the WNBA's No. 2 career rebounder, sets high standards. She was not happy, for instance, with her play against Phoenix. Too many miscues.
"They will take advantage at home of any mistakes we make," McWilliams-Franklin said. "We must be sharper than usual. No excuses. And no surrender."