There's a strange sadness that pervades Minnesota sports fandom every May. The NBA draft is upcoming, which is always an uneasy time for Timberwolves fans. We're usually far enough into the MLB season to be bored and/or realize the sorriness of the Twins rotation. There's no football, and the Wild have - while providing some hope this year - are out of the playoffs. This means that it's time to cheer on Minnesota's most successful professional sports team. That's right - the MINNESOTA LYNX.
Last year the Lynx had a WNBA-best record, beginning the season on a 10-0 tear. Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, and Lindsay Whalen picked up an Olympic gold medal along the way. But this extended season may have contributed to the eventual defeat of the Lynx at the hands of the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA finals, a comment Lynx assistant coach Jim Peterson has made a few times during the past season.
A few big moves defined the Lynx's offseason. First, Taj "Mama Taj" McWilliams-Franklin retired (and took an assistant coaching job with the New York Liberty!) at the ripe age of 42. Just goes to show what a vegan diet can do for you. Or as a fan-made sign said sometime last season, "Taj isn't old, she's awesome!!" Nonetheless, this left a Taj-sized hole in the Lynx's interior needing to be addressed in the offseason.
Filling that hole will be former Gopher (and Whalen teammate) Janel McCarville (a great story on her MN history here and another one here). The Lynx acquired McCarville in a three team trade that sent backup guard Candice Wiggens to Tulsa. McCarville should find a nice home in the frontcourt, and all indications appear to be that she'll start over second-year player Devereaux Peters (as she did in the first preseason game). However, McCarville has taken the last two years off / suspended to rest and spend time with her family, so it's unclear what shape her game is in. Managing the Lynx frontcourt minutes will be a work in progress.
With the departure of Wiggins, the Lynx drafted a player with the most confusing name possible - Lindsey Moore, a guard from Nebraska. Moore the Lesser will likely be Whalen's backup. In the second round, the Lynx selected two players with awesome basketball names - Sugar Rodgers and Chucky Jeffery. Finally, they selected Waltiea Rolle in the third round, who at 6-6 should give them some size to match Phoenix's Brittney Griner. I don't know anything about any college players besides Shoni Schimmel, so if others can contribute anything, please do.
Speaking of Griner, it's assumed by many that Phoenix will be a direct challenger for the title this season, and some four-letter bloggers have them pegged as favorites already. Griner will certainly challenge the Lynx's rebounding numbers, but I am always hesitant to annoint new teams (remember the Lakers this season?). We'll get our first taste of Griner's play early on - Phoenix visits on June 6 (and I am definitely going).
Griner made headlines again recently when she revealed that Baylor coaches told her to keep her sexuality out of the public. The extent of this suppression is somewhat unknown, but it's worth mentioning that with the acquisition of McCarville, the Lynx have at least two openly gay athletes (the other being Seimone Augustus). Seimone was set to get married in Iowa earlier this month, but it looks like she has opted to get married here in Minnesota. With the recent passage of the MN bill putting gay politics in the local public eye, I am curious what (if any) effect this will have on Lynx public discourse or fandom.
The Lynx play their second and final preseason game at noon (?!) May 21 versus Connecticut. Their opener is at home on June 1, also versus Connecticut.