12,000 happy people help Lynx raise championship bannerMay 24, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS - On Oct. 7, 2011, the Minnesota Lynx became the seventh team in the 15 year history of the WNBA to win a championship. After the team’s return from Atlanta, the City of Minneapolis put on a parade which ended with a championship rally at the Target Center. Then as suddenly as the last janitor could pick up the last piece of confetti from the arena floor, it was over. The players moved on to their off-season assignments while the coaching staff prepared for the draft and the next season.
Now that the 2012 WNBA season is here, the Las Vegas oddsmakers give the nod to the Lynx as the heavy favorite to win the championship again, better than the 9-to-1 odds they gave the team midway through last season. The Indiana Fever and Los Angeles Sparks are the second and third placed teams according to oddsshark.com.
That’s not good enough for Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. She’s been around long enough to know that the team still has to show up on the court each night and get the job done. She went to the WNBA Finals three times as an assistant coach with the Detroit Shock and once as an assistant with the Charlotte Sting, in addition to last year’s championship run. Of the 15 WNBA Finals that have been held to-date, Cheryl Reeve has coached in one-third of them.
“Most people that have been around the WNBA for a while understand that nothing is a given. There are no guarantees. Just because we were the best team in the league last year doesn’t guarantee, just because we have 9 out of 11 players back, that that same thing will happen. It’s a different journey,” Reeve said during the team’s media day on May 7.
“The dynamics of a new season are different. I don’t know what our challenges are, but we know that it’s going to look a lot different than last year. We want the result to be the same, but the path that we take to get there is probably going to look really different,” she added.
The moment that every fan and player has been waiting for since last October arrived last Sunday when the players and coaches received their rings and the championship banner was raised moments before the season opening game against the Phoenix Mercury, who the Lynx defeated in the WNBA Western Conference Finals and the right to play for the title.
WNBA President Laurel Ritchie was on hand to present the rings to the players, coaches and trainers during the ceremony.
“For an owner like Glen Taylor who brought the team here and stayed with it, there’s just a different level of joy, excitement and pride. Those are the really special moments that you don’t forget,” Ritchie said.
After the rings were presented, Lynx guard Seimone Augustus addressed the 12,611-strong crowd. “Hello everyone, I miss you guys,” she said. “Everyone knows the last three years have been a rough path for us, but last year was definitely a dream come true for all of us. We were able to take home a WNBA Championship. I hope it was as sweet for you guys as it was for us.
The Lynx defeated the visiting Mercury 105-83, though Phoenix played without Diana Taurasi who sustained a left hip flexor injury before the game.
“We understand how special it is and I think we had a chance to take in the moment,” said Reeve after the ceremony. “I was proud of them on how they handled the distractions. We didn’t play poorly but we still have a long ways to go.”
Now that the ceremony is over, Reeve knows that she can go back to preparing this team to be the champions that they have proven they are capable of being.
“The motivation for this team is to take their place in history. It hasn’t been done in 10 years. There have only been a couple times in our history that we’ve had back-to-back champions. Obviously the great Houston teams that won four in a row, which is absolutely amazing, but it was a different time in our league,” she said. “Yeah, we want to take our place in history so that’s the motivation for these guys. It was a successful day but most of us are glad that it’s over.”
For Candice Wiggins, it was also a moment of remembrance. Her father is Alan Wiggins, the San Diego Padres second baseman and left fielder who earned a World Series ring in 1984. He died a month shy of Candice’s fourth birthday.
“My Dad wore a World Series ring and I never thought that I would have something that could compare to that,” Wiggins said. “The first time I saw my ring, I thought about his ring and then how much rings don’t mean anything. It’s not about the worldly possessions that we have on earth. They’re not going with us in the next life. At the same time, it’s a symbol of what we accomplished, so it means a lot to me.”
Augustus, who was named the 2011 WNBA Championship most valuable player, was all smiles after the game.
“It feels good. It feels awesome. Just to look at it and the memories that go through my head about the run that we had last year and how amazing it was,” she said. “Then getting here to celebrate with the fans, it’s just a wonderful experience to see 12,000 happy people and to be happy with them because we finally did it. We finally did it.”
Now that all business from last season has been concluded, the Lynx (2-0) have started out the season with a bang by winning the season opener against the Mercury, and then defeating the New York Liberty on a road contest on Tuesday. They return to Target Center tonight to face the Los Angeles Sparks (2-0) as they resume their Road to Repeat.