With Matt Wurst, WNBA.com
The Connecticut Sun put a lot of stock
in point guard Lindsay Whalen
when they drafted her fourth overall in the 2004 WNBA Draft. And despite the enormous
expectations, she has not disappointed anyone, from Sun management, coaches and
teammates to her fans all across the country. As a rookie last year, she helped
lead the Sun to within a shot of winning a championship against Seattle. She has
been even better in 2005, developing into the catalyst and playmaker on a team
full of All-Star talent. The Sun finished with a franchise-record 26 wins and
the best record in the WNBA. Whalen averaged more than 11 points and 5 assists
per game and electrifieds arenas with her ability to drive, draw contact and finish
in style. But she is as cool and loose as ever heading into the 2005 Playoffs.
Q. So all season long you guys have been the best team and
fought hard at the end for that home court advantage throughout. Does it really
matter where you play?
Whalen: "I think we found out in last
year's Finals in Seattle that home court is key because when we played in their
arena, their fans were so loud and the Storm played really well off of them. They
beat solid in two games in a row there. We wanted home court to make people play
in our building because we know our fans will be great and we want to have more
games for our fans to see."
Q. The Playoffs are obviously a big deal and not to be taken
lightly, but is it still possible to have fun and enjoy yourselves out there?
| Lindsay Whalen is an acrobat and tactician when she drives
to the rim and gets the bucket. |
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images
"Our team makes sure that we work hard while still having
a good time, enjoying each other's company. There is a lot of room for fun, but
the playoffs are the time of year that we work hard for and spend our time preparing
for. It's about sharpening our focus a little bit."
Q. How does your
lockerroom differ before a regular season game versus a playoff game? Is the preparation
Whalen: "There is just this different sense
that you can feel. Everyone is a little more intense. I don't think anyone's pre-game
routine is too different, but there is a feeling that everyone is really into
what is about to happen during that game."
Q. Do you get nervous for
Whalen: "It's hard to say. I try not to do anything
different at all. I try to keep everything the same, but a game in the Finals
is different than a first round playoff game, a regular season game and a preseason
game. As a player, we have to try and keep it as routine as possible, and then
just let the game flow from there. You then get more comfortable once you're out
there on the court."
Q. How long did losing in last year's Finals stick
with you? Do you still talk about it or think about it personally or as a team?
Whalen: "We don't talk about it too much. Everyone obviously remembers.
Last year was definitely an accomplishment for our team to get where we got and
this year we want to take the next step. It is still on everyone's minds, but
we try not to focus on it or think about it too much. It's a new year."
Is it then harder to win with higher expectations that everyone has of you? Was
it easier as an underdog?
Whalen: "Everyone gives us their
best shot now. Teams come in and really want to beat us. As a player, you want
to do that to other teams when you see that they have a great record. It's natural
to get up for games like that, but as an underdog, the expectations are not as
high and teams aren't always going for you. We are aware of it now and do our
best to stay sharp."
Q. You make highlight
plays pretty much every game, so do you like watching yourself afterwards on film?
Ever surprise yourself? Whalen:
| In her second season, Whalen is loose and much more comfortable.|
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images
"(Laughs) I think you remember
when you make a good play, but you try not to think about it that much afterwards
or go back just to watch it. It happened, it's over with. You have to think about
what you're going to do next game and not get too caught up in the last one. Then
you try to do stuff like that or force it, but you have to just allow it to happen
in the game, and that happens when you are not thinking about it."
Is there one skill or trait that one of your teammates has that you wish you could
steal or adopt?
Whalen: "If I could steal one trait, I would
take Taj's (McWilliams-Franklin) pump fake. It's sick. Her footwork is amazing,
Q. The Shock were the one team this season that you guys struggled
with in dropping three of four to them, right? So are they just in your heads?
Whalen: "With Detroit, they have played some great games against us.
They just came out and executed their game plan with the talented players that
they have. They beat us fair and square in three out of four times in the regular
season, so we just have to stick with our game plan this time and not allow them
to out-work us."
Q. Care to go out on a limb and make any predictions
for the Playoffs?
Whalen: "Well over in the West, Sacramento
had a great season, they have the home court advantage, but Seattle won it last
year and remain the defending champs until someone takes it away from them. It
will be really interesting to see what happen out there. But it's too hard for
me to predict."
Q. How about in the East? Do you see yourself as the
team to beat?
Whalen: "We are definitely going in with that
confidence and the mindset that we are going to win. I think everyone has that
Q. Now if you do win the championship, where is the parade
going to be? Through the shopping area at Mohegan Sun?
"(Laughs) I have no idea. I haven't thought that far ahead. We have more
immediate things to worry about, don't you think?"