Maya Moore In Minny, Lynx Not Satisfied
The Minnesota Lynx added Maya Moore and expectations on Monday. They can’t relax now with a target on their backs.
By Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
Throughout the years, Roger Griffith has taken some hits from Minnesota Lynx fans over trades, non-trades, free agent signings and any other area where he may have left himself open to second-guessing from fans or media.
Yet, in the past few years, each move continues to bring excitement to a WNBA franchise which has only seen post-season action twice in its existence. Of course, it all culminated in the 2011 WNBA Draft Monday when the Lynx held the number one overall pick and very quickly—and unsurprisingly—took Maya Moore from the University of Connecticut.
With the Lynx fortunate enough to be able to add a player of Moore’s status to their team is a, seemingly, once in a lifetime opportunity. Throughout UConn’s post-season run, which also somewhat surprisingly ended without a championship, many Lynx fans found themselves, praying their soon-to-be hometown player came away without an injury. Certainly, the horrible thought passed through Griffith’s head, but he immediately put aside any thoughts of such a catastrophe.
“You try not to even think about the possibility of that,” said Griffith. “Unfortunately, injuries are a part of sports, but you just don’t think about it. There’s nothing you can do about it anyway and that old adage is, ‘Don’t even think or worry about things that aren’t in your control.’”
Now that Moore made it through her collegiate career without injury and is a member of the Lynx, Griffith can sigh a small sigh of relief. The past year has been wild for the franchise, bringing Lindsay Whalen back to her home state by trading away last year’s number one pick, high expectations of the Lynx last summer, only to miss the playoffs for a variety of reasons and sifting through the craziness of preparing for the draft of Maya Moore.
“Last Monday hits and everybody now realizes the draft is closer, most teams have been eliminated, so the activity level of phone calls, preparation, trade proposals, trade inquiries, that all heats up ten days ago,” said Griffith.
During the rush to finish preparations for draft day, Griffith actually received phone calls from other teams, seeing if the Lynx had any interest in trading the number one pick. With a player like Maya Moore a lock for the selection, his answer was simple.
“There were a couple,” said Griffith, “but it doesn’t take long to say ‘no.’”
“There were more for the number four,” continues Griffith, “but basically, we hit a certain point in time where, as of Thursday or Friday, we realized we weren’t going to get anything for four that made sense to us. As of Thursday or Friday, anybody who inquired, I basically just shut it down and said, ‘We’re keeping it.’”
Amber Harris out of Xavier was the Lynx pick at number four. While a vast majority of the media focuses on Moore’s addition—and rightfully so—Harris is a player many expected to go as the number three pick to Chicago. Yet, Chicago made the decision to go with a point guard in Courtney Vandersloot out of Gonzaga, leaving the most versatile post player in the draft on the board for the Lynx to select.
“It wasn’t complete surprise because of, you look at Chicago’s roster and they do need a point guard,” said Griffith. “Obviously, the hype picked up on her (Vandersloot) as Gonzaga went through the NCAA tournament, so no, it was not a complete surprise. You also don’t know for sure how far did she elevate herself through that tournament? You just don’t know, so it’s not totally out of the blue, but Chicago did a great job of keeping their draft pick a secret. In a lot of years, people can do a pretty good job of figuring out where to go. We knew it was probably going to be one of two and we weren’t sure which way they would go.”
The drafting of Harris was an excellent selection, especially after the recent trade of WNBA All-Star center Nicky Anosike to the Washington Mystics.
“The signing of Taj (McWilliams-Franklin) had a lot to do with the anticipation that Nicky (Anosike) was not going to be on this roster and we did not want to lose productivity, we did not want to lose veteran leadership, which actually Taj enhances for our team,” said Griffith. “If we were looking at our draft positions, if we were looking at keeping Nicky, it’s that acquisition that doesn’t make sense for our roster. That was done in anticipation of this eventually happening, so anything that would’ve happened roster-wise really stemmed out of that, not of anything else that would’ve happened today.”
Along with adding players via the draft and free agency, Griffith was busy making draft-day trades to bring in Angel Robinson, who enhanced her own draft status by her NCAA tournament play. Robinson will return home, as she is a St. Paul native, but the beauty of Griffith’s moves was in acquiring a prospect in Rachel Jerry, who will more than likely remain overseas for a while, and in acquiring second-round picks in 2012.
“You know, right now, I’m not going to take credit that we really have anything in the works,” said Griffith. “What we looked at right now is we don’t have those roster spots available today, this year, so why not just defer them and we have the opportunity to figure it out then. We saw what happened today with the extra second-rounders where people were willing to give something up for them. What will people want to give up a year from now? I have no idea, but rather than something today that you have a very good likelihood is going to come to training camp and be cut, if you have the opportunity to pick up another asset in a draft pick that you maybe can use later or maybe can’t, it’s still worth something to have that possibility out there.”
With those possibilities brings another sly smile and “When you control one-sixth of the draft now next year…” from Griffith, who seems to believe anything is possible after the string of good luck and good moves he finds himself on the past few years. After all, he is on a roll.
One would think having the draft the Lynx had would be stress-free, especially with such a transcendent player there for the taking, but jubilant was not the word Griffith would use to describe his feelings after the draft.
“It’s kind of one of those funny, mixed things because the day really could not have gone better for us,” said Griffith. “So you’re very excited and very happy about that, but there also is a thing where you’ve been running on adrenaline for probably ten days now leading up to this and so there is a huge crash when this is over. As soon as you make your last pick in the third round, you feel that crash. It’s a little bit hard to feel jubilant over that really severe adrenaline rush crash.”
Griffith can’t rest just yet. Maya Moore and Amber Harris will face the Lynx fans and Minnesota media Tuesday afternoon in person. After that, it’s time to look ahead to the season.
“That excitement all starts over again tomorrow when you get the players here, fans start meeting them, media starts meeting them and you start seeing that reaction,” said Griffith. “Now, it’s that point of we got this behind us and we’re looking forward to training camp. The adrenaline rush quickly reverses itself and you start looking forward to the first day of training camp and what this team is going to start to look like together.”
Despite the excitement of the day—the adrenaline rush, if you will—don’t confuse Griffith’s good mood and wink-wink answers with complete confidence. A franchise can acquire all the talent in the world, but that doesn’t make them a team. A team begins to develop in training camp and it takes time, many believing it may take even more time when you have such a talented roster.
“I’ll take satisfaction when we get it done on the court, not when it’s all theoretical,” said Griffith.
Now, only time will tell how long he has to wait to relax a bit.