Greetings from Mohegan. Tip-off for Connecticut and Minnesota is about 40 minutes away, but here's some extra notes, quotes and observations from the past few days:
First, though, starters: Rookie Kelsey Griffin will once again start at power forward for the Sun, joining Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Tina Charles.
Meanwhile, with Rebekkah Brunson's arrival, Charde Houston and her team leading 18.5 points per game will move to a reserve role. Lindsay Whalen and Monica Wright start in the backcourt and Nicky Anisoke and another former Monarch, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, will start in the frontcourt.
As discussed in today's advance, the Sun and Lynx have several connections after making two separate trades this offseason. For one, three Connecticut starters (Montgomery, Griffin and Charles) came via dealings with Minnesota as do two for Minnesota (Whalen, Wright).
But while the two teams obviously have a healthy working relationship, they're not any closer than most front offices, Sun coach Mike Thibault said.
"Just circumstance and coincidence," he said Wednesday of the trades. "Both teams in the same time period had things that the other team wanted. It just kind of works that way sometimes."
But in trading Whalen, Thibault said being that it was Minnesota made it easier to do on a personal level, given Whalen would be returning to her home state.
"What helped is she understands it’s a business," Thibault said. "Things maybe don’t last forever unfortunately and also as part of all that, it would have been harder to do a decision like that if we were sending her anywhere else but Minnesota. That would have been harder. But knowing she was going to get back to her roots and her family, it helped ease it a little bit."
Remembering Whalen: It's been old home day around Connecticut this week with Whalen's return. One fan made a scrapbook of photos of Whalen from her six years with the Sun and was asking those close to the organization to write a note in it for her.
Thibault, who has likened Whalen to a daughter and an extended family member, obviously has a lot of memories of his former point guard.
"I think about when we she first came here how much she changed how we play, that we can be an attack-the-basket team with her," he said. "She’s probably in the history of our league as good a guard at attacking the basket, it’s her and maybe a handful of others. I think of her a lot of times when she was rookie, people said how long it was going to take her to adjust to the league. And I kept thinking, ‘I don’t think it will be this long.’ And it wasn’t. We went to the finals her rookie year. I think she made a name for herself in that playoff run that year.
"Off the court, I think of her humor all the time. She wasn’t elitist, she was one of the crowd. She could laugh easily, she was able to poke at herself. Just one of those good personalities."
No sweat: Speaking of Lynx-Sun swaps, Renee Montgomery said she's felt no added pressure having to perform for a team that traded its franchise point guard to get her.
"The coaching staff does a good job of making sure that I don’t have to come in and do everything," she said. "They had a lot of deals done in the offseason where now I’m starting with Kara Lawson and it’s not just me heading the point. The did a good job of making sure I don’t need to carry a huge load. ... I’ve been fortunate that all the systems I’ve been in wanted me to push the ball."