As ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel touched on this morning, four members of the Minnesota Lynx starting lineup — Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Sylvia Fowles — will compete for Team USA in the Summer Olympics.
The rest of the roster includes a conglomeration of WNBA stars including three players hoping to win their fourth gold medal; Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird; last year’s MVP, Elena Delle Donne; the 2016 No. 1 draft pick, Breanna Stewart; three-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year honoree, Brittney Griner; and the 2012 WNBA MVP, Tina Charles.
Team USA has loaded up with eight WNBA No. 1 overall picks*. What’s more, nobody on the roster entered the league having been selected lower than 4th overall**.
Indeed, Patrick Ewing. They’ve called in the big guns.
“It’s extremely exciting to have another opportunity to play with the best players in the world,” said Maya Moore in a statement released by the Lynx this morning.
“It’s just a special time in the history of USA Basketball because of the level of talent, from top to bottom, that we have with the opportunity to continue to make history with our legacy of winning gold medals. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s an exciting challenge.”
“The commitment that she has to our team is something that’s really special.”
The Lynx began training camp earlier this week, where Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Sylvia Fowles have been participating in team activities while Augustus remains in Russia playing with Dynamo Kursk. Head coach Cheryl Reeve, who also serves as an assistant coach for Team USA, said the last possible date for Augustus’ season in Russia is around May 8.
Playing overseas during the “offseason” is common practice for even the WNBA’s elite. Augustus might not even be the last Lynx’ player to return from overseas obligations — the Pioneer Press reported that Rebekkah Brunson’ final game in Italy could potentially be later than that.
Back in March, Moore as well as 2016 Finals MVP, Fowles, wrapped up their respective seasons with teams in the Chinese WCBA.
The only Lynx starter to not play overseas during the winter, Lindsay Whalen, when she wasn’t in the booth alongside Dave Benz and Jim Peterson as a guest analyst for Fox Sports North, spent the last few months readying her body for what is shaping up to be a notably long summer. “When you get older, it’s about managing [your body], it’s about endurance, it’s about flexibility,” said Reeve after Monday’s practice. “[Lindsay’s] really committed herself to those things that don’t involve dribbling a basketball.”
Reeve later commended Whalen for choosing to forgo an opportunity to make thousands playing somewhere overseas during the WNBA offseason. To her, it shows how committed Whalen is to her health, the Lynx, as well as Team USA. “It wasn’t because she didn’t want thousands of dollars in her pocket; it was because she thought it’d be a really good idea to invest in her body,” Reeve explained.
“The commitment that she has to our team is something that’s really special. And so in order for her to peak-perform for us, in order for her to, as an Olympic athlete, put herself in the best position to be able to give everything that she has [in Rio], that’s a long hike.”
The Lynx open the 2016 season with a matchup at home against the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday, May 14.[ESPN, Pioneer Press, Minnesota Lynx]
*Moore, Augustus, Taurasi, Charles, Griner, Bird, Stewart, Augustus
**Catchings (3rd overall behind Lauren Jackson, Kelly Miller in 2001)
Whalen (4th overall behind Taurasi, Alana Beard, Nicole Powell in 2004)
Fowles (2nd overall behind Candace Parker 2008)
Delle Donne (2nd overall behind Griner in 2013)