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September 25, 2012

Lin Dunn

Dan Hughes

Cheryl Reeve

RON HOWARD:  We have with us from Indiana Fever, Head Coach Lin Dunn, from the San Antonio Silver Stars, Head Coach Dan Hughes, and from the Minnesota Lynx, Head Coach Cheryl Reeve.

Q.  Coach Hughes, you eliminated the Sparks from the playoffs I believe at the Galen Center specifically, and you eliminated them from playoff contention at Staples in the past few years.  What's been your secret to taking them out at these key times on their own floor so often, and could the Sparks team be similarly had?
COACH HUGHES:  Actually, the concluding games were won here in San Antonio.  So we've played at the Staples and played at the Galen Center, but if you're talking about postseason, the wins are here in San Antonio.

Q.  What's been your secret to taking them out in big games you seem to have their number?
COACH HUGHES:  If you're just talking about in the regular season, I'm sorry.  We had great games with them.  Our team gets ready to play L.A.  They see them as a very good basketball team.  They're one of the feature games on our schedule, and as we've played them through the years, it's always a team that our players see them as a good basketball team.  So I've got a very interested team.  There are different reasons we've won or lost.  There is no common thread I've been able to find.

Q.  This is also for you, after the win streak, you had kind of a rough patch.  Do you feel you have momentum back?
COACH HUGHES:  Yeah, I think that's the reality.  That win streak was wonderful.  We probably weren't going to win the rest of this season.  But the schedule, and being an Olympic year, challenges all of us.  But we're 4‑2 over the last six.  We're healthy.  That's about all you can ask for in this league is to have an opportunity to be successful and be healthy.

Q.  In these short series in the first round when you have to win two out of three, how quickly do you have to be playing well?  How few mistakes can you afford to make?
COACH HUGHES:  I tell you, it goes by rather quickly.  I think you have to have a persistent attitude from the standpoint of getting your personality out into the game.  Then there are a lot of adjustments that the coaches make from Game 1 to Game 2.  Game 2, if there's a Game 3 in regards to it.  So you better bring your best pretty quickly, because this is a pretty short series.

Q.  Cheryl, talk about the difference and how much of a challenge it is having to defend a title this year and kind of being an extra target on your back?
COACH REEVE:  Yeah, the season certainly has posed some challenges for us once you're labeled a champion, things change for you.  I think I have such a smart group that's able to stay in the moment and not get too caught up in some things.  There is no question it's particularly challenging, particularly in the West.  Just trying to get out of the first round is going to be extremely difficult.  So I think any of us are sitting there in the finals, we're going to feel pretty accomplished regardless whether we're defending champions or not.  It's challenging though.

Q.  A follow‑up, after the Olympics, it seemed like three quarters of the team were having their own personal struggles for a while, but your guys seemed to keep going.  Unless there was something I missed.  What's that say to them?
COACH REEVE:  Yeah, I was really happy with how they responded.  It was everything that I hoped for in terms of I had a chance to go over and see them for a little bit.  We were able to see the level they were playing at.  We talked to the group here in Minneapolis about how hard I needed them to work and to be ready for Lindsay, Seimone and Maya, because they were playing at a high level competing for the Olympics.
We wanted to make sure when they got back, that they were coming back into a group that was going to do their best to match their level of intensity, competitive drive, all of those things that it requires to win a gold medal.
I think we did a pretty good job of it.  I asked the three Olympians not to change what they were doing.  To stay at a high level.  We were ready to meet them at that level.  Fortunately, when we first got back, they were going on a lot of adrenaline.  Then we had a week where physically they crashed a little bit.  But we've been able to have a fair amount of home games following the Olympics.  We got our legs under us, which was good.  And we finished down a tough stretch for the last couple weeks.
But for the most part we survived the Olympic break.  The physical nature that the Olympians went through.  I'm really happy with how it came together for us.

Q.  Coach Dunn, first of all, how are Briann and Shavonte doing for this series?
COACH DUNN:  Well, today is Tuesday, and they have still not practiced with us yet.  We are optimistic that they will be able to practice the first day, but it's moment to moment.  There are certain things that they have to do in order to get to the point where they can be released.  They did do some cardio today.  They did shoot some, but so far they've not been able to do any contact.  So we're just crossing our fingers and sometime on Thursday they'll get released and get to practice.

Q.  Going into a series against Atlanta, what are the keys for you guys to be able to advance?
COACH DUNN:  I think we have to be prepared to play with them and without them.  In the last moment, they've been out an awful long time.  Just being prepared to go with whoever is healthy.  That's going to be one focus.  Then they look at Atlanta's athleticism, and their quickness and speed and how quickly they can get up‑and‑down the floor when they want to.

Q.  Coach Reeve, Brian Agler said he doesn't really know what kind of team he has with the Storm, just because they have been so up‑and‑down because Lauren came back late.  In some ways that makes them more challenging at times.  Other times they've looked really good, and they are still a dangerous team.
COACH REEVE:  We're preparing for a Storm team that's played great.  Those moments with Lauren Jackson in the lineup, with them playing, they didn't have a lot of moments like that.  But that's who they're preparing for.  It does pose some challenges, and I think Brian might be sandbagging a little bit, but I understand the concept.  He hasn't had this group together as long as he would like.

Q.  If I could follow that up with a question for Coach Dunn.  You guys went against the dream last year, and the last two seasons you could say Atlanta has played its best basketball, especially in the early rounds of the playoffs.  Could you talk about how they're building up the same way?  They had some turmoil this year, but it seems they're maybe at their most dangerous at this time of the year.
COACH DUNN:  I think you have to understand last year was, and this year they didn't come until after, and they dealt with other adversity this year with coaches.  And there are things they have to get through whatever issue they're going to have, once they're done, they can settle down and build some chemistry.  They're awfully dangerous.
Unfortunately, last year in the second round of the playoffs, that's where Catchings went down with plantar fascitis, so we had to play them in the third game with her limited, and in retrospect probably shouldn't have played at all.
So we're looking forward to this series, and hopefully we'll be at full speed.  Catchings is probably as healthy and rested as she's been for years, so that is good news for us?

Q.  Coach Dunn, follow‑up for you.  Obviously you'd hate to lose two starters a week or two before the playoffs start.  But I wonder how important or how beneficial was it to get some great playing time for players like (Indiscernible) and seeing the way they responded in the last few games?
COACH DUNN:  I think that's the good news.  We always say one person's problem is another person's opportunity.  Obviously, Phillips and Larkins benefited from Brie, and Brie being in it.  Actually Douglas was out with another head trauma.
So, yeah, we had to adapt and adjust and figure out ways to win without those guys.  I just thought Poland in particular stepped up and did some things that were amazing.  She played 40 minutes two games in a row.
Of course, Erin scored 20 points in two games, and it was good to see people step up.  That's what you want to have happen here at the end of the season.

Q.  Coach Hughes, you've really had the number on Los Angeles this season.  Still they finished quite strongly.  Could you tell me what you see as the strengths your team brings into the picture, and the weaknesses you hope to exploit?
COACH HUGHES:  I think our strengths are offensively.  I think we share the ball as well as any team I've ever coached.  We play a lot through Hammon and Sophia Young, Becky and Sophia.  But in reality we've got different weapons that not only in our starters, but in our rotation.  That gives us the ability to, I think, play across the floor, play inside and out a little bit.  You know, have a high intense team.  I think that's our strength.
I think defensively when we have the ability to turn teams over, it features our transition game.  We've been pretty efficient in transition.  I think probably as many points as any of my teams through the years have.
Was part of your question considering the weaknesses of L.A.?

Q.  Yes, sir.
COACH HUGHES:  That's a tough one, because I think their starting unit is as good as anybody that we play, all five double figures, all that type of thing.  You look and say how does their bench help?  I know there is a little bit of reasoning though.  The reasoning their bench isn't getting as many minutes is because they're so well endowed in the starting unit at that point.  Weakness to me is more about what can we do to put them in a situation where they can't be themselves.
I don't know if they have a glaring weakness.  You don't win 23 games and have too many weaknesses to be honest with you.  It's more about us playing well and not them not getting it done.  We've got to raise our level to a point where we're good enough to beat L.A.

Q.  Have you noticed the mindset of your team going into the playoffs this year compared to last year, not having the experiences from last season's championship?
COACH REEVE:  Yeah, I think I have a more experienced group this year in terms of if you look through the history of the Minnesota Lynx.  The group that I had last year had more experience in that area.  I did have a couple of players that had playoff experience for their teams, so I really thought like last year was a lot of teaching about the playoffs and what to expect.
This year is different.  They know exactly what to expect.  They know exactly what I want from them, where their focus is to be.  So I see a group that came in today very ready to get to work on what we needed to do versus trying to find their way and figure out what the playoffs were all about.  So, yes, I see a marked difference this year.

Q.  Danielle Robinson has really emerged for you as an impact player.  And you've got some guards out in L.A.  You have a great defensive guard in Alana Beard, but you have a small guard who has had some questionable history defensively in Toliver.  Can you talk about that match‑up and what you hope to see from Danielle in those situations?
COACH HUGHES:  I'm glad that‑‑ I think Danielle Robinson has made a marked improvement not only in year two but in the season.  As we came back from the Olympic break, wow, she was really continued to because an even better point guard.  So it's fun to watch this young player develop in front of our eyes as time has gone on.  The match‑up is interesting to me.  Kristi Toliver has evolved into absolutely a strong point at that point, and Alana Beard.
I really studied Alana.  I told the staff today, she's not doing anything‑‑ she's doing about everything well that I would ask of a player.  She's shooting it.  She's shooting the three.  She's distributing.  She's defending.  She's remained healthy at that point.  That is a tremendous challenge.  Those two are playing at a very high level to be honest with you.
As difficult as it is to play against Alana Beard, I'm also happy to see her back in the league and playing so well at this point.  Danielle putting Becky where she is, Jia Perkins, some of the other ones.  Then you look at those two and the people they've got coming off the bench.  There is going to be some good guard play in that series we're about to enter into.

Q.  Coming in an Olympic season, it's kind of almost like there are two mini seasons.  How do you think that affects your teams heading in as far as conditioning and people that were at the Olympics and the people that were away like you mentioned Coach Hughes with Danielle.  How do you think that the break has affected the season and how it will affect the playoffs?
COACH HUGHES:  It's been one of the longer seasons that I have memory of in the WNBA as far as start and finish.  I think some players are in different places.  You've got some players who were able to regain health or teams that were able to regain a player, kind of back in the mix.
But I think it's really about where we are right now.  Are you healthy?  Is your team in a position right now where you're ready to play?  And you've got the persistence needed of the challenges that are coming ahead, a lot of it has to do with health.  Those of us that have good health, we're in a better situation than some who are hoping that players could help in that regard.  It's going to come down to who makes basketball play plays starting on Thursday.
COACH REEVE:  I agree with what Dan sent some insight I think it's an Olympic year, probably also impacted the regular season.  I don't see at this point the Olympics played a factor in the games going forward other than the fact in the case of Seattle and the teams that we're playing.  Maybe at this point they're more acclimated to what they're doing, having a little more practice time with her that could impact them.  All of that is behind them, I think, all the emotions, the physical stuff.
I think that is all behind for our three.  It seems that the ones that have been through it are pretty able to move on to the next thing.  And I think our group, in particular, they're similarly focused which is really fun to be a part of.
I think at this point the playoffs, like coach said, it's a time where players make plays.  Our players are excited to get to that point where it is about just fighting tooth and nail every possession.  Everything that matters.  Then whoever makes the best plays wins the game.
COACH REEVE:  Were able to give somebody like Teddy Douglas some rest.  She just got back from overseas and was able to get her legs back.  Our two players were able to have a second training camp.  They weren't too happy about it, but I was.  They were able to learn the system for Larkins and Christmas, and Sasha Goodlett, when we went into the break, I don't think they still needed the, but when we came out of the break, they needed two or three of them.  So the break was good for us.

Q.  Coach Reeve, I know that Amber Harris hasn't necessarily played a lot of minutes and hasn't been in at all for the last few games.  I wonder, will you have her available for the playoffs?  Also, if you could talk about Devereaux Peters has played a lot of minutes, especially the last five games, and how as a rookie you think she can contribute in the postseason?
COACH REEVE:  The first part unfortunately for Amber Harris, last Saturday she started having some symptoms of swollen glands and that sort of thing.  We got some blood work done, and she was diagnosed with mono.  So she's been doing nothing since that point of her diagnosis, including not being able to attend the White House trip.  She's lost a considerable amount of weight.  It was something that we were trying to do, but this is not the method that we wanted to pursue.
But Amber is back at practice but with very limited action as we try to move her back to getting her at full health.  So she isn't available.  I don't know that we'll see her very much.
So that leads to Devereaux Peters who in ambers absence has kind of slid up in the depth chart because she's the third post for us.  He was able to get I was able to get her some good minutes in this last road trip.  Threw her into the fire and got her some starts.  Prior to that in our Indiana series where she really wanted to see her respond in some tough situations in game situations and that sort of thing.
We're not ready to think about it, but we certainly want to have a good option.  If that ever happens, the way Taj is talking, it's not going to happen for another 20 years, so.

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