WNBA gets ready to tip off 18th season

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Associated Press

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 3:01 AM

Updated Friday, May 16 at 4:00 AM

Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx have put together quite a run over the past three seasons, winning two WNBA championships and reaching the finals the other year.

With a strong nucleus back, the Lynx could easily return to the finals although Minnesota will have to overcome some early injury problems to defend its title.

While the Lynx mostly stood pat this offseason, there were some major changes across the league, which will begin its 18th season on Friday night with five games.

A new collective bargaining agreement was signed this winter allowing teams to add a 12th player to their roster giving teams more depth. The Los Angeles Sparks made major news with an ownership change that saw a group led by Magic Johnson take control of the team.

There was also a blockbuster trade as New York acquired Tina Charles from Connecticut, giving the Liberty another marquee player and sending the former MVP home.

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Here are five things to look for this season:

YOUNG STARS: There were many expectations put on last season's rookie class of Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins. Only Delle Donne lived up to the hype, leading Chicago to the top spot in the East and the franchise's first playoff appearance. She's added 12 pounds of muscle this offseason and the reigning rookie of the year is poised to get the Sky further in the postseason after last season's loss in the conference semifinals. The 6-foot-8 Griner is healthy after injuring her knee last year and is coming off a strong winter overseas. Diggins spent time working on her game, and if the preseason is any indication, she's made great strides there.

INJURED CHAMPIONS: The biggest key for the Lynx to repeat will be how quickly the team can get healthy. Minnesota is already without three of its top six players as Devereaux Peters, Rebekkah Brunson and Monica Wright all have knee injuries. Brunson, who led the team in rebounding last season is expected to be sidelined for at least two months. Peters and Wright could be back sooner.

COMING HOME: After spending the past three seasons in New Jersey while Madison Square Garden was undergoing a $1 billion renovation, the New York Liberty will be back home this season. "We've been away for three whole summers and that's tough for any team," said guard Cappie Pondexter. "I'm happy to be back and the fans are happy to be back."

FAREWELL TOUR: Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn announced before the season that she will retire after this year. She will still remain with the team next season as a senior basketball adviser. Dunn's been with the Fever for seven seasons, leading them to the playoffs six times, including winning a title in 2012. She's been on the sidelines at the college and pro level for 37 years and will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame this June.

RETURNING STARS: Both Becky Hammon and Sue Bird missed nearly all of last season because of injury. Healthy now, the two veteran guards will try and get their teams back to the top of a stacked Western Conference. Hammon is still looking for her first WNBA championship while Bird would love to get the Storm another one. She'll have to shoulder more of the load as perennial All-Star Lauren Jackson is out again for the season recovering from an Achilles injury.

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