This time, Lynx resolve to keep WNBA crown

Reclaiming a championship, as Minnesota showed last year, is one thing. Defending one is another -- and the task begins Friday at Washington.

Brett Davis/Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — That’s what we do.

So went the chant from the dozens gathered at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to greet the 2013 WNBA champions last fall as they de-boarded their flight back from Atlanta. Indeed, the Lynx have won two of the league’s past three titles and appear in prime position to snag a third.

But there’s a reason no WNBA team has won back-to-back crowns since the Los Angeles Sparks did it in 2001-02.

"Everybody’s gonna be gunning for you," center Janel McCarville said Monday at the team’s annual media day. "You’re on the top, so you’re the one that they have to knock off."

Said reigning WNBA Finals MVP Maya Moore: "You just have to be aware that every team is gonna get super amped to play you.

"But that’s every year for us."

That’s what happens when a franchise stirs dynasty discussion by claiming the league’s best record three years in a row and boasting a trio of Olympians in Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus. But the last time Minnesota was in this situation, it fell flat in the2012 Finals.

Meet the Lynx

Reclaiming a championship, as they showed last year, is one thing. Defending one is another.

"That’s the biggest difference from going to get it is we already have it," said McCarville, back for a second season after signing a multiyear extension this offseason. "Now we have to change our mindset from being hungry to go get it to being hungry and wanting to keep it."

Coach Cheryl Reeve said it’s on her and her staff to provide more of a push. Her players, though, are intent upon approaching things the same way they always have.

And why not? Save for a 3-1 loss to Indiana in the 2012 title series, it’s worked.

"They came into training camp pretty disappointed — pretty pissed, quite frankly," Reeve said. "They let an opportunity get away, and so that fueled them. Maybe the difference is I have to do the fueling versus the experiential aspect of it that provided their internal fuel."

Injury update: Injured core returners Monica Wright and Devereaux Peters both walked around at media day without any need for a brace, but neither of them will be in the lineup when the Lynx open Friday at Washington.

Reeve said she’s not sure when either will be able to return from preseason knee ailments. "I’m not a trainer," the coach cracked.

Wright underwent arthroscopic surgery on her left knee Friday, April 25 and has been held out of practice since then. Peters had a similar operation performed on her left knee Wednesday.

No official timetable has been given, but after originally listing herself as 4-6 weeks from returning, Peters said post-surgery it’s probably closer to four.

"It went a lot better than expected," said Peters, a primary backup at the forward spots. "It wasn’t as bad as they originally had thought."

Said Wright, Minnesota’s first option off the bench who can play the one, two and even occasionally the three: "Wheel’s feeling good. Chuck Barta our trainer, he’s working me to death, and (we’re) doing our best to get me back as soon as possible."

Don’t take it personnel: Reeve said she hasn’t yet decided who will be the final two players cut from the Lynx roster.

Currently at 14, the team’s final active-player count must be down to 12 this week. 2014 second-round pick Christina Foggie and 2013 draftee Waltiea Rolle appear the most likely to go, but Reeve said the youngsters on the squad have made it tough on her during training camp and at the WNBA Preseason Tournament this past weekend in Orlando.

Photos of the Week: 5/4/14-5/10/14

"We haven’t solidified," Reeve said. "Probably daily, we’ve got three variations of rosters that we’re mulling between. We’re looking for something to really kind of reach out and grab us, to pull is in the direction."

U-S-A: It also was announced Monday that Reeve will join the coaching staff for USA Basketball at this year’s FIBA world championships in Turkey.

In her first taste of international coaching, Reeve will serve as Geno Auriemma’s assistant alongside college coaches Doug Bruno (DePaul) and Dawn Staley (South Carolina). In four seasons with the Lynx, Reeve has won two championships and compiled a 93-43 mark.

"I think it’s a sign they looked in every corner and couldn’t find anybody else," she joked, adding that she sincerely appreciated the opportunity.

It’ll give Moore a chance to play at the same time for her college coach, Auriemma, and Reeve at the same time. Both grew up in the Philadelphia era.

"Two Philly coaches. That’s a lot of Philliness," Moore joked. "No, I’m excited. What more could I ask for?"

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