The starters will be familiar when the Lynx open their season in May. Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson and Lindsay Whalen.
After that? Fans might need a program.
The Lynx won their fourth WNBA title in seven seasons last fall. Since then? Their top four reserves have either retired, signed somewhere else or been traded. In their place general manager/coach Cheryl Reeve, determined to keep the team's championship window open, has backfilled with veterans. Tanisha Wright and Danielle Robinson at guard. Lynetta Kizer in the post. Add in returnees Alexis Jones, Cecelia Zandalasini and Temi Fagbenle, plus a number of camp invitees, and Reeve expects there will be intense competition.
When camp opens Sunday, Reeve will begin trying to mold a team that won't skip a beat, chasing a repeat title for the fourth time and trying to become the first WNBA team with five titles, all the while knowing there is more history to her core of five starters than there is future.
"One of the reasons we appreciate our time so much together is we do know we're closer to the end than we are to the beginning,'' Reeve said. "It could be our last go-round with this core group, together. It may not. But the mind-set is, you never know. They value and understand how to seize the moment, together.''
With the preseason opener just days away, Reeve talked about the upcoming season. Here is an edited version of that conversation:
Q You're about to begin defending a title for the fourth time. Anything about this time that feels different?
A I would say no. Other than that we're a little older, a little wiser than the first three. I haven't studied the last three defenses, in terms of the stability of the roster. But we don't return a lot, other than the core group.
Q Are you satisfied with the way you rebuilt your bench?
A Yes. Time will tell for sure, but as we moved through the offseason there were some key acquisitions. We were dealing with the retirement of two key players, so how do we land on our feet, backfill, keep this going to where we have a strong enough bench we're able to preserve our starters?
Q Robinson and Wright present a different skill set than [Jia] Perkins and [Renee] Montgomery. How will that affect the way you play?
A We're going to look different from the first group. I think we look different from the first group in the last few years as well. … Renee's ability on every fifth night to drop 20 was a luxury to have off the bench. I don't think we'll necessarily have that. But we'll have a more collective unit in terms of scoring, a more shared load.
Q How will the compressed schedule change how you operate?
A It's such a contrast. Last year we had 114 days in the season, this year we have 94. So what that meant about last season is there was much more practice time. That's not necessarily good for an older team. So managing them last year was probably more challenging than it will be this year in that, really, this year it will be more about recovery time. And so I have to make sure they're not overdoing it in games. We have altered our travel times from last year, tried to stay away from early morning flights. … We've paid more attention to rest and nutrition.
Q With Lindsay Whalen being named coach of the Gophers, is there any concern at all that she'll be able to be effective at both jobs?
A Well, I think I know Lindsay well. I know how she attacks her challenges. And so do I have concern that sometimes she'll be pulled in different directions? It's not necessarily a concern. It's a reality. It's what's expected. … I think being a Minnesota Lynx player, and being the Gophers coach, it's fluid. It's not like you're only going to be a player from 8 to 2. And a coach from 2 to 12. There will be a lot of intersections there. So I think she'll handle both things great. I love it. I love the idea that she's not going to have time to think about being tired or hungry. She is going to be constantly moving and going.
Q Will hosting the All-Star Game affect your season?
A It will affect it in a positive way, with the excitement in our fan base, and hopefully gaining some corporate interest. But to be home during that stretch, in this season, is beneficial. Because of the frenetic pace. … Anyone chosen to be an All-Star will be able to stay home. That will be big this season.
Q You have gone all in trying to keep your championship window open. Will you be able to step back at any point and realize what this group has meant to you?
A I've already started that. I would say after the fourth one, when the buzzer sounded, it was unescapable as a feeling. The group really wanted it in 2017 after the way 2016 ended. I think, along the way, you have moments of appreciation. This group is carving out a place in sports history. A fifth would turn that up to an even higher notch. We have those moments when people talk about how much they appreciate our team. And I can't avoid those moments. I have that appreciation.