First, it was the continuous promotion of the ‘3 to See,’ referencing the widely recognized first three draft picks in the WNBA this year.
Second was a seemingly endless stream of Player of the Week awards to Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker.
The above factors are largely responsible for the irritated mood of Minnesota Lynx fans, who feel their squad is a perpetually under-appreciated group despite a 14-3 record at the All-Star break, which leads the league.
When the 2013 All-Star Game tips off on Saturday, those frustrations should subside thanks to a heavy Lynx representation. Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen were all chosen to reprise their appearance from two years ago, and the quartet will be joined by Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, who earned her All-Star nod by winning the Western Conference last year.
“These guys make it look easy. They can be taken for granted by the league, opposing teams, sometimes your own fans,” Reeve said. “Consistency is something that’s really difficult to accomplish in pro sports. What I think it speaks to is the level of leadership and competitive drive that exists in those four.”
The quartet has given Minnesota a continuity they never had, even as their own roles have shifted since first forming in 2011; Augusts is averaging a career-low in scoring as she assumes a supporting position, a contrast to the responsibilities she shouldered in her first several years with the Lynx. Brunson has been steady in both production and demeanor since her acquisition in 2010, giving Minnesota a low-maintenance post whose work ethic is revered by the locals. Moore’s all-around capabilities have ascended with each year, and Whalen has assumed more scoring duties in 2013 and is on pace for a career high in that category.
“There’s not just one player here that’s going to get it done for us. You never know where it’s going to come from. That’s what separates us from other teams,” Brunson said.
“It’s definitely special. Looking back, it will probably be even more amazing, after we’re done playing, to realize how special a group we have,” Moore said.
Whalen is looking forward to playing with her Lynx teammates of three years again, highlighting their 2011 excursion to San Antonio as a favorite from her previous All-Star trips.
This time, the Lynx constellation will shine from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Two Minnesota All-Stars have ties there: Whalen’s former WNBA employer was the Connecticut Sun, and Uncasville is 30 miles south of Storrs, where Maya Moore became a household name at the University of Connecticut.
Three Lynx players will start for the Western Conference; Cheryl Reeve elected to put in Brunson for the scratched Brittney Griner, voted in by the fans but unable to play with a sprained knee.
Even with that much familiarity, the All-Star Game carries a relaxing tone not seen in standard Lynx games; no statistics will count in the regular season numbers and the only prize for the winning team is an MVP award for one of their players.
“There’s no telling what’s going to happen, and that’s the good thing about All-Star Games. You never know how people are going to play, you go and have as much fun as possible,” Brunson said.
Reeve jokingly suggested the four would be expected to display their defense and rebounding, and her troops equally joked about their apprehension to gamble with her sarcasm.
“We will play some defense or we’re going to get yelled at,” Brunson said, met with a chorus of laughter in the Lynx locker room following an 81-69 win over the Phoenix Mercury.
“She’s somebody who’s always striving to push us to be better,” Moore said. “It’s fun for them to get some recognition.”
Moore not only referred to Reeve, but assistant coaches Jim Petersen and Shelley Patterson, who also are accompanying the Western Conference roster.
Reeve might have a few stories for the two, making two visits to the All-Star Game in that role (2007 and 2009).
“You’re behind the scenes as an assistant coach and enjoy the ride,” she said. “It’s a little bit odd to be on the same side as people that you’re competing against. More than anything, it’s a big stage for women’s basketball.”