MINNEAPOLIS — The way things ended last season didn’t sit well with Maya Moore.
The Minnesota Lynx advanced to their second straight WNBA Finals a year ago but failed to defend their title, losing to the Indiana Fever in the championship. The sting of defeat lingered for Moore all the way until Sunday, when the Lynx opened up their training camp for the 2013 season.
One of the first things Moore, the team’s star guard, did before camp began was talk to coach Cheryl Reeve and her teammates about how she still has a bad taste in her mouth from last year’s playoff loss. The Lynx will now try to use that feeling as motivation as they attempt to return to the WNBA Finals in 2013.
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“It’s a long year for everybody,” Moore said after the team’s first practice Sunday. “But if you take care of what you need to take care of every day and just stay consistent at an even higher level, that will set you up to win an opportunity to win a championship. That’s what we did last year. We set ourselves up to win a championship, but we needed to do a little bit more.
“That’s what this year’s about, just doing a little bit more and doing it consistently.”
When the Lynx took to the court Sunday, they were without a few key pieces that were instrumental in their run to the Finals last year. Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson missed the first practice due to obligations with other teams overseas, while guard Lindsay Whalen was out sick.
Despite the absence of those three veterans, a handful of new faces got their first taste of what it’s like to wear the Lynx uniform. Minnesota has six rookies in camp, including Lindsey Moore, the team’s first-round pick (12th overall) in this year’s draft.
Also practicing for the first time as a member of the Lynx was Janel McCarville, a six-year WNBA veteran who starred alongside Whalen at the University of Minnesota. While McCarville didn’t endure last year’s disappointing playoff loss, she can already see how her new teammates are using that as motivation for the upcoming season.
“Obviously the season didn’t end the way they wanted it to last year,” McCarville said. “They all had higher expectations and had hoped for a different outcome. I think it didn’t sit well with them for the whole time they were overseas or not with the Lynx. From the get-go here, Maya made it a point to say things are going to be different this year.”
Led by Whalen, Moore, Augustus and Co., the Lynx finished with a stellar 27-7 regular-season record. After beating Seattle and Los Angeles to advance to the WNBA Finals, Minnesota lost the best-of-five series in just four games, dropping the title game 87-78 on the road.
As players went their separate ways in the offseason, many of them playing overseas, that championship loss stayed with them.
“It still lingers,” Reeve said. “But at what point do you kind of just try to fold it up and put it away? That’s usually around January in our league that we start looking at personnel decisions, that sort of thing, and you have to move forward.”
The Lynx return most of the roster from last year’s team, with a few exceptions. Candice Wiggins was part of a three-way trade that helped Minnesota acquire McCarville from New York while sending Wiggins to Tulsa. Veteran Taj McMcWilliams-Franklin retired after the season. Outside of that, though, Minnesota’s nucleus remains intact.
The Lynx have less than a month before the regular season begins June 1. Sunday’s practice was the first step in turning the page on a disappointing end to an otherwise great season. Now the work begins on earning a third straight trip to the WNBA Finals.
“Our goals don’t really change,” said Monica Wright, who is entering her fourth season in the league. “Every year we want to be the best team in the WNBA. Of course last year left a bad taste in our mouth. But like always we’re going to come in here fresh. It’s a new season and we’re just going to try to get better.”