Been hearing some talk in local cricles recently about the MVP race in the WNBA. Several people who regularly cover the Lynx brought the subject up with me. And a metro daily recently ran a story extolling Lindsay Whalen's chances of winning the award,
Does she have a chance? That's not an easy anwer.
Let's starts with who votes for the award. There are 17 national voters -- plus 24 regional voters, two in each city with a team.
Doubtful any of the 17 are based in Minnesota. Will try to get a list. I'm guessing most of them are on the East Coast. They are broadcasters, bloggers and sports writers who cover the whole league.
Will they vote for Whalen? Her six strong seasons at Connecticut should help as well as the Sun's two runs to the WNBA finals with her at point guard.
But listen to what Rebecca Lobo, one of ESPN2's two broadcasters doing the Los Angeles-Seattle game on Sunday night, had to say about MVP voting:
"Most voters look for the best player on the best team," Lobo said.
The best team, even assuming I am biased, is clearly the Lynx.
Terry Gannon, Lobo's partner on the Sunday ESPN2 telecast, nearly said as much. He was discussing the Western and Eastern Conference races at halftime and said, "Minnesota is the best out West, no doubt about that."
And the Lynx, barring a complete collapse, should finish with the best overall record. East-leading Indiana is 3-1/2 games back of the Lynx, whose magic number is 3. Any combo of Lynx wins and Indy losses adding up to three gives Minnesota the best WNBA record and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
So if voters pick the best player on the best team to be MVP, Whalen is in, right? Uh, there's a problem there.
Watch the Lynx for any length of time and different players step up. One game Seimone Augustus is the best player. Another Maya Moore is. Early in the season Rebekkah Brunson was almost the best every game when she started the season with six double-doubles.
Brunson was the Western Conference Player of the Month in June, Augustus in July. And Moore was the Rookie of the Month for the whole league in July.
Going into Sunday's game Whalen was averaging 6.0 assists per game -- first in the league, 14.2 points per game and shooting 45.9 percent on threes and 51.5 percent on all shots. Her overall shooting percentage was first among WNBA guards. Those stats are all career highs.
She also is first in the WNBA in assists to turnovers ratio at 2.74.
But not only has she not won any monthly awards, she has not even won a weekly award. Brunson has been named Player of the Week in the Western Conference twice this season, Augustus three times.
wnba.com does a weekly Race to the MVP story. Where is Whalen there? She was a lowly eighth last week, behind Augustus who was sixth.
The top three are Tina Charles of Connecticut, Sylvia Fowles of Chicago and Diana Taurasi of Phoenix.
Lobo said Charles and Tamika Catchings of Indiana -- fifth in wnba.com's MVP ratings -- are both strong candidates, but Fowles probably is not unless the Sky make the playoffs. She didn't mention Whalen at all.
Voters have to submit their votes by Sept. 12, the day after the regular-season ends. I am privileged to be one of two local voters out of the many media who cover the Lynx regularly. I am going to try to keep an open mind and see how the season plays out before casting my votes for MVP, first and second team all-WNBA, etc.
I will say this. It's easy to make a strong case for Whalen being the Lynx MVP. She makes her teammates better, finding them on crisp passes on fast breaks or in the team's half-court offense.
But if you are a voter who watch the Lynx only now and then, you might not appreciate's Whalen value game in and game out because teammates often overshadow her.
This is Whalen's eighth WNBA season, She was runner-up for MVP once, in 2008, finishing second to rookie Candace Parker of Los Angeles in the closest vote ever.
This season she has quietly plugged away. And had a great year. But all seven players ahead of her in the weekly wnba.com MVP ratings have higher scoring averages and six have higher rebounding averages (she is tied for seventh with Diana Taurasi at 3.3 rpg).
Charles is averaging a double-double (17.1 ppg, 10.9 rpg), so is Fowles (20.3, 10.1).
If the Lynx keep winning, though, they could tie the WNBA record for most wins in a season with 28 and would finish the year on a 10-0 run. That could help Whalen get a little more attention on a team, which until this season, had never finished more than two games above .500 in the regular season.
"Minesota has been stellar all season long," Lobo said.
HEALTH A KEY TO SUCCESS
Seattle was 28-6 last season and won the WNBA, but has played much of this year without center Lauren Jackson (hip), "I wonder what the record of Seattle would be," Lobo said, "if Lauren Jackson was healthy the whole year?"
That's a good point. A big reason the Lynx have such a good record is that after several years of key injuries, this team has been remarkably healthy. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve has started the same five in 28 of 29 games.
McWilliams-Franklin missed one start in Tulsa because she got kicked in one of her Achilles' tendons in warm-ups just before the game. Jessica Adair started in McWilliams-Franklin's place, but Taj recovered and came in off the bench.
* The WNBA playoffs will start with a doubleheader on Sept. 15. Teams, obviously, have not been determined yet. The Lynx remai the only team which has clinched a playoff spot. Tulsa and Washington are the only teams which have been eliminated from the playoffs.