MINNEAPOLIS — Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville are reunited once again in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Lynx announced Friday that they acquired McCarville from New York, along with a 2014 second-round pick from Tulsa, as part of a three-team trade. The Lynx dealt guard Candice Wiggins to the Shock as part of the trade.
McCarville will join Whalen, a current Lynx guard and McCarville’s former teammate at the University of Minnesota. The two were instrumental in the Gophers’ 2004 Final Four run. During that season, Whalen averaged 20.5 points while McCarville scored 16.1 points per game and averaged 10.8 rebounds.
“We’ve been back and forth on texts and calling, everything, just kind of, ‘Man, it might happen again, just kind of hinting and getting that itch,” McCarville said of teaming with and talking to Whalen at her introductory press conference Friday. “But just now when I walked in the gym, the first thing she did is come over and jumped on me and, ‘Man, it happened. It’s finally in place.’ We’re both pretty excited and can’t wait for the season to start.”
McCarville, 30, hasn’t played in the WNBA since 2010 with Liberty. The 6-foot-2 center was the first overall pick in the 2005 WNBA Draft by the Charlotte Sting. She spent just two seasons in Charlotte before she was taken third overall by New York in the 2007 WNBA Dispersal Draft.
“We think this is one of the offseason moves that will help keep us at the level we’ve been at the last two years and put us back in the running for another shot at that WNBA championship,” Lynx president Roger Griffith said.
In six WNBA seasons, McCarville averaged 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds. Her best year came in 2007 when she scored a career-high 13.7 points per game for the Liberty. Since 2010, McCarville has played in Europe, including in Turkey this winter. She averaged 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds for Canik Belediyesi in the Turkish Basketball League during the 2012-13 season.
McCarville said she left Turkey after a financial dispute with her club. It was either stay without getting paid or return to the United States — a similar dilemma Whalen faced this winter. Both former Gophers chose to return home.
Now, McCarville is back in the WNBA with a fresh start in a familiar place.
“In a way, it was a blessing in disguise,” McCarville said. “Something great worked out of a bad situation for me in Turkey. It was basically onto the next chapter of my life, and that next chapter happens to be back here in Minnesota.”
The addition of McCarville gives the Lynx another inside presence and a bit of toughness as well. That was something Minnesota lacked when the Lynx fell to the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Finals last season.
“We did not ever talk about Janel in terms of physicality,” Griffith said. “Can she set those screens? Yeah. But offensively where we see her fitting in is being able to move the ball, a post player that you can work things through because she does have a sense of where the ball needs to go and an ability to get the ball from her hands into somebody else’s.”
The Lynx return a strong nucleus of players that includes Whalen, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWiliams-Franklin, all of whom started all nine games in the WNBA playoffs last year. The question now is how the minutes will shake out for McCarville and whether she’ll have a chance to start.
“I think that’ll show itself as we move forward and get into training camp. I think the biggest thing is we have a potential starting job open,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I don’t think that’s the focus for Janel. I think being back here and whatever she can do to help our team to be successful, maintain the success that we’ve had. That’s why Janel was really appealing to me. Janel was not about Janel. Janel was about team, and that fits in really well with our group.”
Wiggins, 26, spent all five of her WNBA seasons with the Lynx, averaging 10.4 points and 2.2 assists per game. Last year, her scoring dipped to 6.8 points per game as she came off the bench for Minnesota, which made it to the WNBA Finals one year after winning the league championship.
“Candice has been an important part of our team for the last five years, was a big part of our team coming off the bench in our championship two seasons ago,” Griffith said. “She played a very important role with our team, but there’s not a lot of opportunity for her here for that role to change. … Hopefully she will get that opportunity in Tulsa.” Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.