Despite returning one of the WNBA's top scorers last season and adding two highly regarded draft picks, the Minnesota Lynx face a tough task at turning things around following several seasons of mediocrity.
The Lynx will see if they can start to turn things around when they open the season Sunday at home against the defending Eastern Conference champion Detroit Shock.
After finishing with a losing record the last three seasons, including back-to-back years with a 10-24 record, the Lynx are eager to get back on the court in hopes of competing in the Western Conference.
One of only a few bright spots last season, Seimone Augustus returns looking to build off an impressive year. Augustus, the 2006 Rookie of the Year, averaged 22.6 points last season - the second-highest average in the league.
The Lynx, however, will be without last year's second leading scorer, Lindsey Harding, who is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in her left kneecap. Harding, the first overall pick of the 2007 draft, led all rookies with 11.7 points per game.
New to Minnesota this year are rookies Candice Wiggins and Nicky Anosike. Wiggins, the third overall pick out of Stanford, is the Pac-10's career scoring leader and three-time conference player of the year.
Anosike, who was the second pick of the second round, was a member of Tennessee's back-to-back national championship teams. She may start after averaging 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds during the preseason.
Anosike will face a familiar face on Sunday when her team hosts Detroit. Fellow Lady Vols rookie Alexis Hornbuckle set a Shock record on Saturday with seven steals to go along with eight points in Detroit's 85-66 win over the Houston Comets in its season opener.
"I knew I had to be ready to play, and I just wanted to give us some energy and defense," said Hornbuckle, who the Shock received in a trade with Seattle for All-Star forward Swin Cash. "I was over-thinking things early on, but I settled down."
Katie Smith scored 21 points and Plenette Pierson added 17 to lead the Shock, who have played in the WNBA finals in three of the last five seasons.
Deanna Nolan played just 17 minutes for the Shock, limited by a sprained left ankle that made her a game-time decision. She played two minutes in the third quarter before leaving for good, and is questionable for Sunday.
"I thought it was extraordinary that she was able to get on the floor at all,'' said Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer. "She couldn't get it loose after the half, so we had to sit her."
Detroit and Minnesota split last season's two meetings with each winning at home.
"Most definitely, (the Shock are) one of the toughest teams in the league," Augustus told the Lynx's official Web site. "We call them the 'Bad Girls,' but we're ready to compete with them every step of the way."