Basketball

Defending champ Lynx enter 2014 as class of WNBA

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — They have two championships in the last three seasons, a talented core that has been together going on four years and a hard-driving head coach who demands precision in everything they do.

The Minnesota Lynx have become the WNBA's gold standard, a franchise built on stability, continuity and selflessness much the way the San Antonio Spurs have done in the NBA. And just like those Spurs, there is no end in sight for the Lynx.

"It's really a special time in our franchise's history," coach Cheryl Reeve said. "It's fun to be a part of whether you're an assistant coach, a trainer." The Lynx have been in the WNBA Finals each of the last three seasons, with a loss to Indiana in 2012 the only hiccup separating them from a full-fledged dynasty. Their trio of stars — Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen — are their version of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and the seamlessness of the program has laid a foundation for what they hope is a long run of success.

"They know each other like the back of their hands," Whalen said of San Antonio's Big 3. "I think we have a little bit of that going. I think that's something we try to emulate and anytime you can get compared to a team like that, that's pretty cool. I think we'll take that and keep working on it every day."

While other teams across the league are changing coaches, retooling rosters and welcoming rookies who will be expected to help turn franchises around, the Lynx return their entire starting five from a year ago and every key player that helped them beat the Atlanta Dream last season for the title.

"It's such a big help to be able to have one less thing to figure out," Moore said. "There's always so many moving pieces in pro sports that it's a new puzzle every year. But to have that assurance that I know I can count on this really helps. You don't have to worry about trust or personality or style. You can just start and move forward quicker."

Here are five things to know about the Lynx heading into the season opener on Friday against Washington: CHASING HISTORY: If the Lynx can win a second straight title this season, they will be the first team to repeat as champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02. "We're not going to worry about making history until we're a game away from making history," Augustus said. "We don't take anybody lightly. Teams have gotten better."

MEDICAL REPORT: Top reserve Monica Wright is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, starting power forward Rebekkah Brunson will miss at least two months after having surgery on her right knee this week and backup forward Deveraux Peters had left knee surgery that will keep her out at least six games.

MAYA MANIA: Moore continued her gradual takeover of the franchise, winning the 2013 finals MVP award in her third season. Augustus thinks her teammate still has room to improve. "How she was in 2012 to 2013, expect more (improvement) from 2013 to 2014," Augustus said.

REEVE'S HONOR: The fiery Reeve was recently added to Geno Auriemma's Team USA staff. "In the end I offered to be the one that got Maya her water and towels and they said OK, let's do it. We need someone to do that," Reeve deadpanned.

FUEL TO THE FIRE: "They came into training camp last year pretty disappointed and (upset) after letting an opportunity get away. So that fueled them. Maybe the difference is I have to do the fueling versus the experiential aspect that provided their internal fuel." — Reeve.

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