It could be said that five games into the season might be a bit premature to celebrate the 2014 Minnesota Lynx. I disagree.
The defending WNBA champions picked up where they left off last season and are off to another fast start in pursuit of their third title in four years. Coach Cheryl Reeve has the ultimate challenge this year. All-Star Rebekkah Brunson, the team’s leading rebounder, and key reserves Monica Wright and Devereaux Peters all had knee surgery before the season and have not played yet.
When you’re the hunted as the Lynx are and you’re missing valuable members of a cohesive championship team, the last thing you would expect them to be is unbeaten, and the league’s lone unbeaten team at that.
The WNBA decided last week to launch what is a first-ever for a professional sports league: a campaign to market specifically to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered community. Forty-two years into Title IX, this is a major leap of faith for women.
The league has a website to support it and will feature a nationally televised “Pride” game between the Tulsa Shock and the Chicago Sky on June 22. All 12 teams will have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season. The league plans to work with advocacy groups to spread a message of inclusion.
WNBA President Laurel Richie says the league has been marketing to the GLBTQ community for a while on a local level. The WNBA believes that 25 percent of lesbians watch games on television. As champions, the Lynx obviously will lead the way.
Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus have come out firing and have led the Lynx by picking up the scoring slack and lack of depth, averaging 33.8 and 20.8 points respectively per game. Moore is the first WNBA player to score 30-plus points (34-33-38-30) in four straight games to start a season or in consecutive games period.
Memorial Day Monday, the Lynx vs. Chicago were featured on national TV, ESPN, both teams 4-0. The Lynx won it 75-72, another hard-earned early victory. Lindsay Whalen led the way with 22 points. Augustus scored 17; Moore had suffered a black right eye and a cut over it after colliding with Augustus head to head in a previous game chasing a loose ball.
The timetable for the return of the injured Lynx players is unknown. Clearly, however, the Lynx will be challenged all year as defending champions, and they now carry the banner with the new league initiative as well.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.