With the Lynx, the goal never really changes. Sunday will mark the opening of training camp for the 2015 season and the Lynx — ousted by Phoenix in last year's WNBA Western Conference finals — will enter the new, just-opened practice facility with the goal of winning their third league title in five years. ¶ The good news: Unlike last year, when Rebekkah Brunson, Monica Wright and Devereaux Peters missed the start of the season following knee procedures, the Lynx are a healthy bunch. More? Phoenix star Diana Taurasi will sit this season out and Los Angeles star Candace Parker will miss at least the beginning of the season to get healthy after playing in Europe. ¶ The seven-game suspensions handed down to Phoenix center Brittney Griner and her wife, Tulsa forward Glory Johnson, on Friday will have on-court ramifications as well. ¶ But consider: Minnesota's core group of Brunson, Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus — with the exception of Moore — is on the other side of 30. It's unclear how much time the window of opportunity for the Lynx, as fans know them, will stay open. And the Lynx will open camp without Janel McCarville and will try to get newly signed Asjha Jones up to speed. ¶ Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve sat down this week and discussed the issues facing her team in the upcoming season.
Q What, to you, is the motivation going into this season?
A We have a group of four [Whalen, Brunson, Moore and Augustus] that have kind of been here since 2011. And we all have an understanding that this is a really special group. Those four plus whoever we surround them with. And so what they're here for — their purpose — is to win championships. And so, whether it's an individual year, or whether it's an understanding over a window or time, they understand pro sports. And they understand it's special here and they understand that the window is only open for so long. So that's the motivation, how many can we win during their legacy.
Q That window doesn't stay open forever.
A Exactly. And they know that. That's the beauty for me. I don't have to sell that. And I tell them, at the end of every year, if it's ever too much for you, or something you don't want to do, let us know, and we'll help you move onto whatever goals you might have. And so, each time you see them show up you know that's the commitment, that's the expectation, that's the drive. And that it's fun. They know it's a part of their legacy. And that's what they want to do, shape their legacy.
Q After all, three of those four are over 30 ….
A Right. Exactly. So there is that sense of urgency. When you're around these guys you understand why they're Olympians. 'Cause Olympians have this edge, this special competitive drive. So, for me, when we come off of 2014 … We knew what a challenge 2014 was for us. And while we fell short of our goal, we knew we probably did the best we could, given our circumstances.
Q Some might have viewed that you not getting to the league Finals last year as a sign that window was closing.
A Oh, absolutely not. Anybody who was watching would know we won 25 games even given the challenges we had, physically. … We were the first team in the history of the league to do that in four straight years. We're proud of what we did, with the adversity. … We had a lot thrown at us.
Q Peters, Wright and Brunson all had knee procedures done both before and after the season. I understand Brunson didn't play overseas this past year. How about the other two?
A Dev originally went overseas, came back to have her cleanup surgery, and then went back over again. So she played. And [Wright] initially went over, but came back. The USA training camp was her first time back playing.
Q How does Anna Cruz change your team?
A She changes our team by being able to take mileage off our 1s and 2s. She can do both. And it helps put [Wright] in a position … Monnie's very willing to play 1, 2 or 3. But I think we'd agree that her playing 2-3 is best for her and best for our team. And the way she plays, in a tenacious, ball-hawking way, I can apply ball pressure, get up full-court, and maybe disrupt things.
Q Which new player has the best chance of making an impact this year.
A Cruz, definitely. By a full length. [Reshanda] Gray is really intriguing.
Q What are the biggest position battles for you entering camp?
A The post group. We'll have Asia Taylor play more three. That's where she'll have to make the team. [Shae] Kelley is a four. With Asjha, Damiris [Dantas] is my third post after Jones and Brunson. Amber Harris, you know what? It's time. It's now or never.
Q How does the decision by Taurasi and Parker change the Western Conference landscape?
A Taurasi is vital to that team. Last year she was just really, really good. Brought out the best in everyone around her. Remove that piece and the sentiment will be they won't be as good. However, look at their roster, and you know they have a lot of talent, probably the best front line in the league. They should be really good. L.A.? New coach [former Lynx coach Brian Agler]. Really good coach. Will give them schemes that are hard to play against. … The challenge they have, their guard group is good. But with the exception of [Alana] Beard, they're all playing in European championships and will miss training camp. And, maybe, the start of the season.
Q Which of your young players do you expect to make big jumps this year? Dantas, perhaps?
A No I'm more guarded with Damiris. If she can build on what she did a little bit, be more comfortable, get rid of that rookie stuff, that would be a good progression. Probably Amber and Dev, I'm looking for jumps. Dev has four years under her belt. Come on, you can't keep doing the same things you did as a rookie. We're looking for a jump there. It would be great if Tricia Liston made a jump.