Wiggins Sacrifices for Team
The Lynx are on top of the Western Conference standings. The selflessness of Candice Wiggins is a greatly underappreciated reason as to why.
By Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
The Minnesota Lynx are off to the best start in franchise history. Now, as the All-Star break arrives, they find themselves at the number one spot in the Western Conference. There are many factors in that, such as the arrival of Maya Moore, solidification of the team’s understanding of Coach Cheryl Reeve’s system and her demands of her players, as well as health of the players who make up the roster. After only eight games last season herself due to injury, Candice Wiggins notices the differences in her team this season.
“Me and Seimone were actually talking about that,” said Wiggins. “We were just like, ‘This doesn’t feel like old times.’ It doesn’t. We’re a different team and losses are a part of the professional game and we just have so much experience now that we know how to handle that. It is different though because last year we felt defeated and we were insecure and all that stuff, but I don’t think we’re going to have those issues this year. I think that’s going to motivate us and I’m speaking on behalf of myself, but also my teammates.”
It all seemed to come together quickly, although the Lynx themselves would say they are still working out some of the kinks, as they are never satisfied, always striving to reach heights the team has never achieved. While the Lynx management did a fine job of collecting more talent on the roster this season, there is a bigger factor in play for the four-year veteran Wiggins.
“It’s that experience,” said Wiggins. “We have Taj. I asked her today, ‘Taj, how many games have you played in the WNBA?’ and I was like ‘Ball-park?’ because she didn’t know. She was like, ‘Probably about 500.’ That’s so awesome. She has that experience, Brunson has a lot of years, Whalen has a lot of years and even Mone has a lot of experience now. I’m kind of getting up there. Not really, but kind of, but my point is when you have people like that on the team, they really control the culture of not being defeated and we don’t lose ourselves. In year’s past, we were so young that we took that and were really emotional about losses and they really changed our mind.”
The team has four All-Stars in Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Lindsay Whalen this season. There has been talent on the roster in previous years, but if Augustus and/or Wiggins had an off-night, the Lynx had little chance to win. Now, with the influx of talent on the roster, they can spread the wealth, making the team very difficult to defend.
“It’s crazy because no one feels all this pressure to do everything on their own,” said Wiggins. “Not even Maya. Everyone feels like we can rely on each other. There’s trust there that I don’t think we’ve had in years past. For me personally, I get in the game and everyone just wants to do their part.”
After a prolonged off-season of recovery from surgery after injury, Wiggins knows it is beneficial to her to be able to have others share the load of carrying a team to victory. Claiming to be and looking as if she is completely one-hundred percent, Wiggins continue to do what she must to maintain her good health.
“She basically has no meniscus, so that’ll be a career-long management of her knee just like, really most of the players in the WNBA,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. “There’s such wear-and-tear and with Candice obviously having a surgery, she’s a player that’s always going to have to kind of monitor what she’s doing. She can’t go full tilt all the time at practice. That’s true for a lot of players and you have to manage. Dawn Staley comes to mind. It could be something like that.”
Few players are making greater individual sacrifices than Wiggins this season with the Lynx. Her playing time has essentially been cut in half, dropping from around 29 minutes per game to 14 per outing. After averaging 15.7, 13.1 and 13.8 points during her first three seasons, Wiggins average this year has dropped to 5.4. Yet, Wiggins is the loudest cheerleader when on the bench, is the first to help a teammate off the floor when knocked down and she is focusing on the defensive end of the court. Wiggins is also confident enough to know that a team deep enough to have a player of Candice Wiggins’ skill level coming off the bench is a really good team.
“I don’t know how I look, but I feel great and that is something that I’m really excited about,” said Wiggins. “Obviously, I have my personal goals, but more than anything my goal was just to stay healthy throughout the season, so that’s a check plus for me on the column today of just being healthy.”
The Lynx have had some early success in the 2011 season, but they continue to fight through one game at a time. With their four All-Stars this year, a former All-Star in Charde Houston and Wiggins, a former Sixth Woman of the Year winner, there hasn’t been the slightest hint of ego issues. Their collective goals are not the individual awards or accolades, but rather making the playoffs and a deep—if not a championship—run once they get there.
“The players on this team are just so humble,” said Wiggins. “We’re like anti-divas, you know? We’re mostly divas with the way we dress and stuff, but that’s really what it comes down to. Seriously though, on the court, it’s awesome. It’s very rare to have that too, but at the same time we are great players. We know that we’re stars, all of us, so we have this confidence. I feel like I’m great, everyone’s great, but it’s like that humility of something bigger than you.”
“I think a big part of that too is that we haven’t been to the playoffs forever, so we’re like not even tripping about who is doing what,” continues Wiggins. “We just need to get it done and that’s what’s awesome too.”
One of the reasons the Lynx have had early success is the unselfish nature of Wiggins this season. She is sacrificing statistics, sacrificing playing time and sacrificing some of the glory that comes with those things. In short, she is doing whatever her team needs of her and is doing it well. Wiggins has had and will continue to have special moments on the court, helping the Lynx in their quest for a collective goal. Those collective goals of a playoff berth for the first time in her WNBA career, as well as a deep run into the playoffs—if not a WNBA championship—are more important to her. Quite simply, she is an example of team before individual.
“I think teams should fear that because for us, I feel like the Lynx this year, because we have so many weapons and we have so much confidence through our depth, it’s like you cut off one head and two heads are going to grow back in its place and now these heads shoot out fire,” said Wiggins. “That’s how I think and that’s how I’m responding, so we might’ve had one head cut off, but two heads will grow in its place and it’s a monster.”
Give Wiggins a lot of credit. Her sacrifices this year are helping to make the Minnesota Lynx that monster for opponents.