Redemption is the name of the game in Minnesota in 2017.
The 2016 season came to a devastating end for the Minnesota Lynx in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals, when the Los Angeles Sparks prevailed in the final three seconds of play on a shot from reigning MVP Nneka Ogwumike.
2016 may have ended in heartbreak, but the Lynx are already back in 2017 as the pre-season favorites to win another title. League general managers voted the Lynx as the team most likely to win the WNBA championship with 42 percent of the vote. In second place were the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Lynx will no doubt look to avenge their Finals loss this season against their Western Conference rivals. But as Maya Moore told WNBA.com, that loss provided every member of the team with some extra motivation.
“It’s something that I don’t think [we’ll] ever forget. All the emotions. Both teams were easily champions, just one team had to lose,” Moore said.
“The way we lost, obviously it was heartbreaking. It just gives that fire and that hunger and that little chip on the shoulder to fight to get there again. Nothing like life hitting you in the face to make you live life even harder and fuller.”
And live harder they will.
The Lynx are possibly the team that went the most unchanged this off-season. After all, there is no need to reinvent the wheel when you finish with a league best 28-6 record.
Minnesota’s veteran-filled starting lineup of Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Sylvia Fowles is perhaps the most recognized starting lineup in the WNBA.
In 2016, Moore received first team league honors, while Fowles was named the league defensive player of the year and received second team honors. Minnesota also boasts the 2016 coach of the year, Cheryl Reeve.
And while the Lynx have one of the most recognized starting lineups in the league, resting will be an issue considering the youngest starter on their team, Moore, is entering her seventh season. Last year, Reeve combatted age by putting a 30 minute limit on her vets during the regular season to ensure that they all had enough gas in the tank to carry them through a Finals run.
This will be helped by the fact that Augustus, Moore and Whalen also all decided to rest this off-season rather than play overseas.
The Lynx will try and repeat most of what they did in 2016, except in 2017 they hope that the championship trophy will be heading to Minnesota when all is said and done. However, they all know it won’t be an easy task.
“Doing my best to put myself in a position to even repeat any of the things I’ve done, and that this team has done is a challenge in and of itself, it doesn’t just happen,” Moore said at the team’s media day.
It’s doubtful that anyone understands that better than the Lynx at this point.
Another final tidbit, per WNBA.com: Since 2011, the Lynx have won the WNBA Championship in every odd-numbered year. No doubt they are hoping this trend will continue in 2017.
The Lynx kick off their season at home on Sunday against the Chicago Sky at 6:00 p.m. CT.