Minnesota Basketball Rises To The Top

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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Take a moment to think about how far the Minnesota Lynx and Timberwolves organizations have come in the past two calendar years. The journey might surprise you.

At the end of the 2010 WNBA season, the Lynx were 13-21, fifth in the Western Conference and 15 games behind conference-leading Seattle. It was the team’s sixth consecutive losing season and sixth straight time the team failed to make the postseason. For the Timberwolves, the 2010-11 campaign ended with a 17-65 record—the seventh consecutive year without a postseason berth.

Fast forward to 2012, and the scope of Minnesota basketball has changed tremendously. Not only have the Lynx become the team to beat in the WNBA—the defending champions with a league-tying best 15-4 record heading into the second half—but the Timberwolves have revamped their roster this offseason that combines enough newly acquired and already signed talent to make a significant climb up the standings this winter.

To quantify just how much talent is on both rosters, take a look at the men’s and women’s basketball medalist teams in London. The Lynx had three Gold Medalists on Team USA in Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore, while the Timberwolves had Gold Medalist Kevin Love on Team USA and Bronze Medalists Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved on Team Russia.

Combined, no other professional basketball city in the U.S. had more basketball medalists than the Timberwolves and Lynx this summer. Not even the combination of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Tulsa Shock (5) or the trio of the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Sparks (4) reached that level.

When it comes to international success this summer, the Wolves and Lynx stand atop the list.

There’s been a transformation of success around these two organizations, and it’s causing a heightened level of excitement around both fan bases. No question there’s a connection between the level of talent the Lynx and Wolves have on their rosters and the increase in wins for both teams in their most recent seasons.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve pointed out 25 percent of Team USA came from the Minnesota Lynx roster, which is a good indicator why the team is in first place and is coming off a 2011 WNBA title. But she said it is also great for both franchises’ fan base in Minnesota.

“I think for our fans, it’s awfully fun to be part of this franchise at this time,” she said. “On the Lynx side of things we’re getting it done, and from the Timberwolves side of things we’ve got that level of player in those three, that things are I think going in the right direction for the Wolves. Hopefully they can make a playoff push, and I think it’s just a tremendous time to be a fan of both franchises.”

While the rest of the Lynx were practicing and preparing during a month-long break, Augustus, Whalen and Moore were competing against the best players each country has to offer. They swept their way through the competition, going 5-0 in the preliminary round then 3-0 in the medal round en route to the Gold.

Lynx guard Candice Wiggins said she’s grateful to play with those teammates on a daily basis. She said getting to face them every day in practice makes the rest of the team better, which elevates the team’s overall game.

“I love them for what they bring, their experience,” Wiggins said. “The veteran experience that Lindsay has, the unique thing that Maya brings to the game. The X-factor, she kind of does everything. And Seimone being Seimone, being the female Carmelo [Anthony]. I just love being around them.”

After facing each other in practice, Wiggins said they’re prepared to take on the rest of the league.

“The past part is when we play other teams, they have to play against all of us,” Wiggins said. “So that’s a problem. It’s just great for me, and I just want everyone to understand how much I’m really soaking this up and I’m learning so much.”

That will likely be the case for the Lynx throughout the fall and, with the additions of Shved and Kirilenko—among other offseason moves—the Timberwolves hope to follow suit with a similar practice atmosphere this winter.

If all goes according to plan, both teams could have lofty goals in the seasons to come. If that holds true, look back to this summer and the talent these players displayed on the international stage as a strong indicator for things to come.

“I think the fans are loving it,” Lynx guard Erin Thorn said. “There were a couple games where Seimone and Maya and Whay were in there at the same time, and they provided a little push that the USA needed to separate themselves from the other team. I think that’s fun for the fans to see our little crew taking it to the world basically.”

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