The Minnesota Lynx is celebrating its 20th year in the WNBA this season. In this 20-part occasional series we will take a year-by-year look back, featuring reflections from players, coaches, fans and others. This week: 2002
One of the most unpopular trades in Minnesota Lynx history took place after the 2002 season began.
Betty Lennox, a fan favorite since she arrived two seasons earlier and the winner of WNBA’s top rookie award that season, was destined to be a bonafide star in the league. She did achieve this, but not in Minnesota.
A hip injury she suffered shelved her during the 2001 season, and though she recovered to play, Lennox’s explosiveness hadn’t returned. She was traded to Miami for former Minnesota Miss Basketball and Wisconsin star Tamara Moore, who the Sol had chosen 15th overall in that spring’s draft.
“I turned 22” when the W pre-draft camp took place in Chicago “on the weekend of my birthday,” Moore recalled. “I was one of those players whose stock was rising.” She went into that event with one goal in mind – “to dominate,” she declared.
The Lennox-Moore trade nonetheless sent shock waves through both downtowns, Minneapolis and Miami, but especially to the North Minneapolis native. Moore learned at a morning shootaround that she would be packing to head back north.
“You’re going home… You got traded to Minnesota,” she remembers her coach saying. “My instant reaction was to cry. I didn’t care it was home – it felt like I had done something wrong or was not playing well.”
Now, looking back, Moore saw the trade “was a validation that I am a good player in this league.” However, coming home to play in the downtown arena just minutes from where she grew up wasn’t the homecoming she had hoped for, Moore said.
Instead, she joined a club that was in the midst of perhaps its worst period thus far in franchise history. Despite having Katie Smith, rookie rebounding machine Tamika Williams, and second-year forward Svetlana Abrosimova, the Lynx still struggled. A season-long seven-game losing streak and a 2-11 mark in July eventually forced Brian Agler out as coach.
Nonetheless Moore, still not fully feeling the love from the home fans who missed Lennox, thrice led the team in scoring, twice in rebounding, and 10 times in assists after she arrived. As a starter, Minnesota went 3-4.
“I didn’t get that full recognition because [of the trade], but I didn’t take it personal,” the first and only Minneapolis native to ever play for the Lynx stressed. “It was hard to play here. I was getting calls all hours of the day [for tickets]. It was a lot of stuff weighing on me and trying to prove I was worthy of that trade.”
She added that if it had been a few years later and the Lynx was more stable as a franchise rather than going through expansion growing pains, things might have turned out better for her during her time in Minnesota.
Instead of a welcoming homecoming, Moore got a lukewarm shoulder, despite being from the state of 10,000 lakes. By mid-summer the next season she would be gone.
Nonetheless, “I had a very good rookie year,” she said. In Minnesota’s fourth WNBA season, despite a 3-3 August, the Lynx again finished out the postseason with a 10-22 record.
The Moore-Lennox trade and Agler’s firing, amidst other negative factors, highlighted the franchise’s most topsy-turvy season in team history. We would later learn that it was only the beginning.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.