The defending WNBA Champions were dealt a harsh blow at the start of the season when it was announced that three key players would be on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery. Rebekkah Brunson, Monica Wright, and Deveraux Peters are all on the shelf recovering from knee surgeries.
On paper this meant that the Minnesota Lynx would come out of the gates limping, right?
The Lynx are an impressive 7-0, with 3 of their wins coming on the road. Their impressive start is due mostly to Maya Moore who leads the league in scoring, averaging 27.6 points per game. Seimone Augustus has also picked up the slack scoring 20 points per contest.
At the center of it all is point guard Lindsay Whalen. The engine that makes Minnesota go, Whalen has improved her scoring as well. A career 12 point a game scorer, the Minnesota native is averaging a career best 16.3 points per game and shooting a blistering 50% from three-point land.
Whalen is a winner, what else would you expect? She has won two WNBA championships, an Olympic gold medal, and played in four WNBA All-Star Games. Whalen is 20th on the WNBA's all-time scoring list with 4,170 points, and third all-time in assists with 1,760 dimes and counting.
Whalen is destined for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Swish Appeal spoke to Lindsay Whalen about Minnesota's undefeated start, what it takes to be a point guard at the highest level, the Lynx' chances to repeat, and her plans for life after basketball.
Swish Appeal: With so many injuries did you anticipate having this good of a start to the season?
Lindsay Whalen: The record is nice. I think it's more or less how we're playing. I think we can play better. Of course the season is measured by wins and losses but at this point of the season you want to be playing well, starting off well, staying true to your principles and what you have as a foundation of a team. I feel like we're making strides, getting better, and learning things in each game and each practice together. Now it's just all about coming together every day as a team. Especially at the start when you don't have a ton of time together you've just gotta go out there and do that thing, you know?
SA: Yeah. What does the loss of Brunson, Peters, and Wright mean for the team long-term?
LW: Well I think it gives us a chance to get some players out here and get a good feel for the game. A lot of people are getting a lot of minutes and developing their game. It's an opportunity for younger players to get some good minutes, some good reps in practice, come out here and do their thing. I think it's been good. Moni and Dev will be back sooner than later. When they get back it'll be a nice boost in the arm for us to be able to go out there and continue to play well after they get back.
SA: Talk a little about the play of the rookie Damiris Dantas.
LW: She's been doing really good. She's been playing like 30-35 minutes and it feels like we've been playing with her for a long time. It feels like we didn't miss a beat. Of course she's a different player than Brunson but at the same time she's come in and been able to do a lot of different things. We've been able to keep it rolling and I feel like it's been a positive thing for us.
SA: Maya is playing at an unbelievable level. Are you surprised at the rate that she's scoring the ball?
LW: She's really an unbelievable player. I'm not necessarily surprised because I'm around her every day and I see the commitment and the work ethic that she puts in every game. But at the same time she's on a really good roll. We know she's playing within herself, which is really great. She's shooting the ball really well and if she continues to keep working hard and doing those things she'll continue to get better.
SA: You're the best point guard in the game, what advice would you give to a young player playing point guard that wants to make it to the pros?
LW: First and foremost you've got to be a good teammate. You've got to be a good leader. You've got to do all the little intangible things really well. Secondly, you've got to continue to play. Play a lot of basketball. Not just high school and AAU, go to an open gym, go out and play on Sunday afternoons, indoor, outdoor, whatever, just play a lot of games. That's what I did growing up, I played all the time. You get the feel for the game that way. A lot of times as a point guard that's what you want. You get the feel for the game that way. You don't necessarily want to have to be thinking all the time, you want the feeling. And make your teammates better all the time.
SA: Do you feel like leadership is something that can be learned?
LW: Both. I think you're born with some traits but along the way I think you pick some up. Before I came here with our coaches I wasn't as good a leader as I am now. They've put me in leadership positions and roles and I've adapted and grown in that area. It's a progression - I think you fit into it. As a rookie you're not going to come in and say a ton. Now I'm in my eleventh year and I'm one of the vocal leaders on the team. It's something I've grown into. I think you have to have that disposition naturally but it's definitely something you can learn and get better at.
SA: You've played in 5 WNBA Finals?
LW: Yeah, five in ten years.
SA: That's impressive. You've also been in All-Star Games and the Olympics do you ever look back on your career and say, wow I've accomplished a lot?
LW: Sometimes, especially when you're asked about it because you get a chance to reflect. It's been fun. It's been some great experiences. I've been fortunate enough to be a part of teams with great coaches and great teammates. It just makes you want to take it all in and continue to try to get better and do those things - play the right way and do the right things.
SA: Can you see yourself coaching when it's all done?
LW: Maybe, maybe. I've thought about it before, but at the same time I just want to keep playing as long as I can and have fun, especially with this great group and we'll go from there. It's something I've thought about. I'm kind of up in the air about it right now. We'll see what happens when I finish playing.
SA: How cool is it to be from Minnesota and getting to play there?
LW: It's awesome. I'm in a really great situation. I'm fortunate to be home and playing in front of my family all the time. The home fans are so supportive. It's really cool.
SA: What will it take for the Lynx to repeat as WNBA champions?
LW: I think just day-to-day getting better. Enjoying the journey, the next game is the most important, having fun, and keep coming together as a group. That's the biggest thing is coming together and making it always about the team.