Lynx finish regular season home schedule, visit White HouseSeptember 19, 2012
Shortly after the Minnesota Lynx defeated the Indiana Fever 86-79 at Target Center Monday night, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve was all smiles. Not only did her team win a contest against a good Indiana team or go through the annual Fan Appreciation Night, but her 25-5 squad finished the home schedule with a 16-1 record, the best all time.
“I’m really happy with how we closed out the home regular season,” said Reeve. “Mr. [Glen] Taylor, earlier in the season, asked us to be one better than we were last year. It’s nice when you can tell Mr. Taylor [Lynx owner] that we were two better. It keeps him smiling. With last season (14-3) and this season (16-1), it’s a credit to our fans. It’s a credit to all the people who are working hard.”
Monday night’s sellout crowd of 9,523 helped the team draw an average of 9,683 per home game, the highest figure since the inaugural season in 1999. They drew over 1,200 more fans this year, as defending champions, than they did last year.
The team has one more three-game road trip before they close out the 2012 season and head to the playoffs as the league’s top seed.
“It is different, for sure. We had to kind of talk through this a little bit,” said Reeve. “There’s a delicate balance. Our players know it, our players are smart. You never want to go into a game saying it’s meaningless. At the same time, our minds are on the playoffs. We’re kind of trying to look forward. They will look a little bit like preseason, a lot of minutes for our bench players. We’ll kind of see how that goes. The goal is the same, to win the game.”
Before the team gets back to playing basketball, they had one last residual thing to take care of from last year’s championship season. Tuesday morning, with their bags all packed, they flew to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony at the White House with President Obama to celebrate being Minnesota’s first professional sports championship team in two decades.
“There’s no question that these are some outstanding basketball players. But they also find the time to raise money for breast cancer research, help local students with their reading. I hear they clean up pretty well for their Cat Walk for a Cure fashion show. So this team does it all and they do it with style,” the president said during his brief remarks.
“We know all the statistics, but what’s also true is that our women athletes just present themselves so well and are such great ambassadors for the game. And as I was pointing out, you don’t see them on Sports Center doing stupid stuff,” President Obama added. “They play the game the right way. They compete fiercely, but they’re good – great sportswomen.”
“I think we all feel really, really great about what the WNBA has accomplished, but what this team in particular has accomplished,” he concluded. The president also mentioned that he has a “feeling that we might end up seeing them back here before too long.”
The history of sports teams visiting the White House dates back to President Andrew Johnson’s administration in 1865, when he had the habit of inviting baseball teams to visit him at the Executive Mansion. Over time it has morphed into extending the invitation to teams from all sports who win championships, whether it be at the professional, college or Olympic level.
“President Obama, on behalf of not only the Lynx players standing here but every player in the WNBA, we want to thank you for being a WNBA fan. Your presence at our games empowers women and girls to pursue their dreams, and that’s really important to us. We thank you for that,” said Reeve.
“We’re extremely honored to be here today. We are the 2011 WNBA champions, not only because of the talent-laden group that stands behind the president and I, but most importantly because this team is incredibly selfless, and that’s what makes a champion,” she said while introducing team captains Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Rebekkah Brunson, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus.
Augustus, the 2011 WNBA Finals most valuable player, presented a commemorative jersey to the president as the ceremony concluded.
Conspicuously absent from the ceremony were former Lynx players Alexis Hornbuckle and Charde Houston, who both currently play for the Phoenix Mercury this year. Houston posted a tweet to the social media site, Twitter, after the ceremony, “Dear President Obama, I wish I could have met you today. It’s okay though, I will see your face soon. Sincerely, Mercury #22.”