MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Behind a curtain in the bowels of Target Center, the Minnesota Lynx gathered as a team for one last time this season. A few thousand jubilant fans waited in the arena, watching a video introduction for the team that had just captured its second WNBA championship in three seasons.
On the big screen, fans read words like "Dynasty" and "Greatest Team In History."
"No pressure, guys!" finals MVP Maya Moore said to the group.
Whether they want the labels or not, the Lynx are being cast as the next empire in the league, and for good reason. They have made it to the finals for three straight years and twice came away with the title. Their 99 victories are the most in a three-season span in league history and this year they became just the second team to go 7-0 in the playoffs.
They have four All-Stars in a core that isn't changing anytime soon, and they are overflowing with the confidence that comes from so much success.
"It makes me excited because we have 80 percent of the definition covered," Moore said. "Great team. Great family. Great dominance. Now it's a matter of can we do it over and over and over again? The way you do that is one day at a time."
For the second time in three years, the Lynx paraded through downtown Minneapolis after sweeping the Atlanta Dream in the finals. For a sports market that has been wallowing in the struggles of the Twins and Vikings this season, the chance to celebrate a truly dominant team received an enthusiastic response.
Thousands of fans lined the streets of Nicollet Mall on a chilly day and followed the caravan of convertibles into Target Center for one last party.
Point guard Lindsay Whalen channeled Shaquille O'Neal with an elongated "Can you dig it!!!!" call to the crowd. Assistant coach Shelley Patterson, who was director of basketball operations for the Houston Comets in 1999 when they won the third of their four straight titles, told the crowd she had been hesitant to compare the two teams.
"But after the sweeping and butt-whooping we've given," Patterson said to a roar, "this team, by far, is the best team, the most coachable team."
The Lynx had the second-youngest roster in the league this season and extended the contracts of Whalen and star shooting guard Seimone Augustus, so they will be well-positioned to defend their title next season. The last time they were in this position, the Lynx lost to the Indiana Fever in the finals last year. Now they'll be the defending champions again.
"I think we're going to embrace that idea," coach Cheryl Reeve said. "People have been gunning for us for three years. As long as we're healthy and have that core group back, we're equipped to handle it."
Augustus is the longest-tenured Lynx player, and she has been through the lows of her first few seasons in the organization, when the franchise was one of the perennial doormats in the Western Conference. That all feels so long ago to her now, and she is enjoying being the team that every other team wants to beat.
"The (bull's eye) is probably going to be huge next year," Augustus said. "A lot of other teams want to be in this position. We've been here, fortunately, for the last three years. People are probably getting tired of hearing about the Lynx. But you're going to have to deal with it."
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