MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Lindsay Whalen’s return home to play for the Minnesota Lynx four years ago coincided with a career renaissance and the emergence of a long-suffering franchise.
The 31-year-old Whalen is playing some of the best basketball of her career and the Lynx are chasing a third straight WNBA finals appearance, so the two sides decided to extend their relationship.
The Lynx signed Whalen to a three-year contract extension on Friday, ensuring the All-Star point guard will be running the show in Minnesota for the near future. Whalen, who was in the final year of her deal, is averaging a career-high 14.7 points and 6.0 assists to help the Lynx (23-7) to the best record in the WNBA.
“I always wanted to stay,” said Whalen, who grew up in nearby Hutchinson and starred at the University of Minnesota. “I just tried to play as hard as I could and as well as I could and I figured everything would take care of itself.”
With Whalen in charge of the offense, the Lynx have advanced to consecutive WNBA finals, including winning the franchise’s first championship in 2011.
Whalen is also averaging 4.2 rebounds and has attempted just eight 3-pointers all season long, a sign that she has taken an even more aggressive approach to attacking the basket this year.
There seems to be plenty of juice in the legs of the 10-year pro, partly because of the extra work she put in this offseason. Whalen abruptly left her team in Turkey this winter because of a contract dispute and returned home to Minnesota to work out with coaches and refine her game.
“Having some time this offseason to work on some different things was really key,” she said. “I was here four to six weeks before the season, working on different skills, our offense and things we were going to be working on this season.”
Minnesota plays its final regular-season game on Sept. 14 before heading to the playoffs.
Lynx executive vice president Roger Griffith called Whalen a “franchise cornerstone.”
“Lindsay has become the top point guard in the league over the past several seasons and we are glad to have her playing in her home state of Minnesota,” he said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to watch an outstanding individual like herself night in and out and we are thrilled that she’s decided to continue her career with the Lynx.”
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