A year ago, as the Lynx were about to start the 2017 WNBA season, the motivation to go through the grind of preparing for yet another year was easy to find: Nneka Ogwumike’s last-second basket in the last game of the previous league finals.
“That’s a feeling that will stay with us,’’ Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Forever. Never goes away.’’
There is no such focal point this time.
Starting in 2011, with four league titles in seven years, there have been titles, MVP awards, parades. There is really nothing the Lynx have not done.
Except one thing: repeat.
Sunday the Lynx will open the regular season at Target Center against the Los Angeles Sparks, a rematch of the past two league finals. For the fourth time since this historic run began, the Lynx will try to repeat as champions.
Only this time the motivation might come from somewhere far different. Instead of the pain of a loss, the appreciation of a legacy.
“We haven’t won everything,’’ Seimone Augustus said. “We still have stuff to win. The back-to-back is something we feel like is possible for us. And we have a small, limited time to get it done.’’
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve joked at Wednesday’s media day that the Lynx have been described as “old’’ for years. A bit later Augustus joked that the word “old’’ wasn’t to be used. “Veteran,’’ she said, was better.
OK. This is a veteran team. Three starters — Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson — are 34 or older.
Augustus described watching Whalen handling dual roles of player and coach of the Minnesota Gophers wistfully Wednesday. She said it was like seeing a sister go out into the real world.
So it’s happening. The core group of four starters is getting closer to the end. And if the idea of squeezing everything possible out of the experience isn’t motivation, what is?
“At this point, we’re thankful we have a shot at it,’’ Whalen said. “And we’ll take what we can from past seasons to give us our best chance at it. We don’t have the motivation of losing a buzzer-beater. But we have motivation from all our offseasons. We’re back together. At this point, where we’re at in our careers and lives, it’s about putting everything we have into this season.’’
Three times the Lynx have tried to repeat. They won the 2011 title, but lost to Indiana a year later. In 2013 the Lynx were on top again, but a year later were ousted in the conference semifinals by a historically good Phoenix team. It remains the only time since 2011 the Lynx haven’t made the finals.
Trying to defend their 2015 title, the Lynx came up one basket and a few seconds short. Sunday — in their first game at Target Center that matters since that loss to the Sparks in 2016 — the Lynx will try to build a little more history.
A repeat would be just the third in league history. The Houston Comets won the first four titles from 1997-2000, and the Sparks won back-to-back titles in 2001-02. A fifth title would be the most in WNBA history.
Maya Moore knows that the biggest enemy is complacency.
“But once you’ve tasted it, and see how it feels,’’ she said of winning, “you want to keep doing it. You want to see how good you can get, maximize. I pull from several motivations. This is one: How much can we get out of this group?’’
That’s the question.
“It’s rare to have an opportunity to try to repeat again,’’ Moore said. “This will be our fourth time. That motivates us, to take advantage of this opportunity we’ve earned and have again.’’
It starts Sunday, a rematch of last year’s final. The league’s annual survey of league general managers was released Wednesday. In it, the Sparks were tabbed the favorite to win the title.
“I haven’t studied it,’’ Reeve said. “Nor will I.”
“It’s what we’re accustomed to. Through the years, I don’t know if we’ve been picked very many times.
“The only think I can attribute it to,’’ Reeve said, smiling, “is there’s a knock on our team for its coaching. Because it’s certainly not the players.’’