The new-look Lynx hope this is the year they finally live up to expectations.
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Season Outlook

This has to be the year the Minnesota Lynx make their big leap. For a few seasons now we have lauded their blue chip, albeit young talent and braced ourselves for when this potentially dangerous group would take over and become the talk of the Western Conference. The pieces appear to be all there now heading into the 2010 season. With the additions of steady point guard Lindsay Whalen and do-everything rookie Monica Wright, there's now a healthy mix of youth and experience, as well as star power at every position. They have a new coach in Cheryl Reeve who brings championship experience from the Shock and has proven herself to be plenty capable of game-planning and motivating talent.

The breakout nearly happened last year for Minnesota, as it won its first three games and posted a 7-3 mark by the close of June. But towards the end of June, the team's best player and one of the league's top scorers, Seimone Augustus, went down with a knee injury and was lost for the season. Behind the stellar play of All-Stars Nicky Anosike and Charde Houston, Minnesota weathered the setback for a while, but ultimately stumbled to the finish, ended with a sub-.500 record and missed out on earning its first postseason berth since 2004.

In the past few years, injuries have always seemed to sideswipe what promised to be the season Minnesota would start realizing its potential. It happened with Augustus and former Lynx player Lindsey Harding (both No. 1 overall draft selections). And there are early warning signs that 2010 could be no different. Prior to training camp it was revealed that Augustus and Candice Wiggins both had to undergo surgery and will miss some time; Augustus to remove fibroids in her torso and Wiggins to repair a small meniscal tear in her right knee. Wiggins is expected to be out the season's first couple weeks while Augustus could miss about a month of action.

As a result, the Lynx, already feeling the pressure of ending the longest current postseason drought in the WNBA, must attempt to get 2010 off on the right foot without the services of two of their best players.

That's not to say it can't be done. As mentioned above, Minnesota upgraded its arsenal this year by adding Whalen, Wright and Reeve along with free agent signing Hamchétou Maïga-Ba and forward Rebekkah Brunson, who was acquired via the Monarchs dispersal draft. While it's obvious what impact the new players will likely make, the hiring of Reeve can't be overlooked. For years now Reeve, who replaces Jennifer Gillom at the helm, has been viewed not only as a highly regarded assistant coach, but as one of the top evaluators of talent and a constructor of great defensive schemes. And defense was something that was sorely lacking with this squad in 2009, as the team surrended 83.1 points per game, the second-worst clip in the league, and allowed opponents to shoot .461 from the field, which put them dead last in that category.

Those stats seem odd when you consider the Lynx have Anosike, who in just her second season last year established herself as one of the best centers in the game on both the offensive and defensive ends. Not a believer? Just check out the team leaders in each category on the right side of this preview. But singular defensive stalwarts are not what the Lynx need; they need team defense, and that's something Reeve should install from Day 1 with Anosike as the centerpiece.

Team defense is just one of the things that needs to come together for Minnesota to finally be a power. They also need to get healthy. They need the new additions to blend in seamlessly with the holdover stars. And they need to be careful not to fall behind early in what figures to be a ridiculously competitive Western Conference in 2010. But through the experience they have gained and the moves they made in the off-season, the Lynx have put themselves in their best position yet to do so.

Mark Bodenrader

Player on the Spot


Whalen
No move signaled how eager the Lynx are to win now more than the acquisition of Whalen. Sure, making the deal for the former Connecticut Sun point guard can also be viewed as attempt to energize and grow the fan base since Whalen is a Minnesota native who played her college ball at the University of Minnesota. But do you know what helps attract fans more than anything? Winning. And the Lynx proved they were serious about that when they were willing ship away a soon-to-be franchise point guard in Renee Montgomery along with the No. 1 overall selection in this year's draft (Tina Charles) to acquire Whalen (as well as the No. 2 overall pick, which they used to select Wright).

With any team that seeks to compete at a high level, stability at the point guard position is critical, as having a player that can get the ball to players in the right positions to allow them to succeed will in turn allow the team, no matter how young, to flourish. And that's something Montgomery is most likely two years away from providing consistently. Whalen? She's been doing it for the past six WNBA seasons, with two trips to the WNBA Finals to her credit, and at an MVP-type level for the past three or so.

That brings added pressure for Whalen though, whether she wants to admit it or not. Not only is she being viewed as the savior in her home state. Not only could she use a bounce-back year after failing to guide her team to the playoffs in 2009. She's the biggest acquisition the Lynx made since the close of a disappointing 2009 season, and she'll be largely responsible for the shaping the play of the second-biggest acquisition the team brought in -- Wright.

Granted, Wright is talented in many facets of the game and her versaility should be an invaluable asset, especially when you consider the Lynx will be without Augustus and Wiggins to start the season. But the Virginia product still needs to find her place on this team and Whalen will have a huge impact in determining that.

Mark Bodenrader




Projected Lineup

G.Lindsay Whalen
G.Candice Wiggins
F.Seimone Augustus
F.Charde Houston
C.Nicky Anosike

Players Added

C.Jessica Adair
F.Rebekkah Brunson
F/C.Ashley Ellis-Milan
F.Vanessa Gidden
G/F.Hamchétou Maïga-Ba
F.Gabriela Marginean
G.Nuria Martinez
G.Brittany McCoy
G.Lindsay Whalen
G/F.Monica Wright

Players Lost

G.Roneeka Hodges
C.Tasha Humphrey
G.Kelly Miller
F.Anna Montanana
G.Renee Montgomery
F.LaToya Pringle

2008 Leaders

PPGNicky Anosike13.2
RPGNicky Anosike7.4
APGNicky Anosike2.7
SPGNicky Anosike2.7
BPGNicky Anosike0.93

Team Stats

Points Scored80.3(3rd)
Points Allowed83.1(12th)
Field-Goal Percentage.420(10th)
Opponents’ FG%.461(13th)
Rebounding Diff.-2.3(9th)

More »

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