The chant came in the Lynx locker room following Wednesday night’s victory over Los Angeles, amid fountains of champagne celebrating a fourth WNBA title in seven seasons.
“Drive for five,” the players yelled. “Drive for five.”
Coach Cheryl Reeve suspects the chant, instigated by Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson, was done at least partly with champagne in hand and tongue in cheek.
“They were joking about being tired of hearing ‘Roar for Four,’ ” Reeve said. “It was, ‘OK, thank God, we’re done with that. How about ‘Drive for Five?’ ”
Well, how about it?
The Lynx cemented their claim to a dynasty with their fourth title, matching only the Houston Comets, who won the first four. After the game, one player after another talked about how much that resonated with a group of women who were drawn to the game as girls watching those Comets.
“Since 8 years old I’ve been a die-hard fan,’’ Maya Moore said. “Watching the Comets, some classic battles with New York. Then Detroit had their run, watching the [Seattle] Storm. And then I get a chance to be a part of an unbelievable group of players over these last few years.’’
It doesn’t look like the players are willing to settle for four. So what are the prospects of another run?
Good, Reeve insists.
“I think the skill set our older players have, they can continue to do it, even if, athletically, they aren’t where they used to be,’’ Reeve said. “They’ll have to adjust their games, continue to take care of their bodies, do what is necessary. You don’t see Diana Taurasi [of Phoenix] or Sue Bird [of Seattle] retiring. You’ll see this collection do this for a few more years.’’
Thursday, the team celebrated what it had just done at Williams Arena. Addressing the crowd, Reeve teared up and got a hug from Sylvia Fowles. Moore jokingly took Fowles to task for not being very nice to the Sparks. The fans cheered as the players promised more.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be changes when mid-January arrives and teams can start making moves and signing contracts.
The core group, the starters — Seimone Augustus, Whalen, Moore, Fowles and Brunson — should all return. Brunson, who became the only five-time champion in league history Wednesday, is a free agent. But she’s made her home here and wants to return.
Backup forward Natasha Howard — who was pressed into playing the small forward position this season — is a restricted free agent, but the club wants her back.
Veteran forward Plenette Pierson has already announced her retirement, and guard Jia Perkins could soon follow suit. She said Wednesday she hasn’t decided yet on her future.
Guard Renee Montgomery is also a free agent, and deciding whether to bring her back could be one of the more difficult decisions the Lynx have to make. She played well when Whalen was hurt. But the Lynx have to decide whether keeping Montgomery would stunt the growth of Alexis Jones, who the team is convinced will be a good player after a rookie season that saw improvement from start to finish.
“A.J. has a skill set that we haven’t had in a guard,’’ Reeve said. “We haven’t had a guard, in a pick-and-roll, who can break someone’s ankles, freeze someone, get a floater up, shoot the three. We’re excited about A.J.’’
In order to compete in an ever-improving league, a few things need to happen:
With Pierson gone, the team needs to restock depth in frontcourt. With players aging, monitoring minutes will become more important; it worked well for Augustus this year, and she was fresh for the playoffs. Brunson needs to play fewer minutes. Fowles is in her absolute prime, but Reeve wants to extend that.
How? Rookie Temi Fagbenle has shown promise but needs work. She has the build and athletic ability to be just what the team needs, though. Fagbenle has landed a spot with a EuroLeague team in Poland, and the Lynx will keep a close eye on her development.
But an addition, either through trade or free agency, is still possible.
On the perimeter, Jones will progress. But the team wants to get more athletic there, too. The team is also excited about rookie Cecilia Zandalasini, a 6-1 Italian who signed with the team late in the season. Also a project, Zandalasini has a great outside shot and has surprised the team with her toughness. She could emerge as Moore’s backup.
One way or another, some changes are coming: “You’ll see us probably be very aggressive in exploring options of ways to improve our team,’’ Reeve said. “That’s the name of the game, to keep this going. You can’t stand pat. You can’t spend your offseason designing a ring.’’
Perhaps most important, Reeve is a free agent as well. But talks on changing that should come soon.
“I’m happy here,’’ she said. “I’ve made my home here in Minneapolis. It’s a franchise I believe in, am committed to.”