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WNBA stars may not love the Lynx, but they respect them

MINNEAPOLIS — Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi was asked Friday about the reception she has received in Minneapolis for all-star weekend.

"It's great," she said with a smile. "For as much as I hate the Lynx ..."

OK, Taurasi was joking. She admitted as much. Still, any disdain would be justified. It can't be fun for some of the WNBA's top talents to watch Minnesota hog much of the league's limelight over the past eight seasons, winning four WNBA titles while appearing in six Finals.

"At least I've won a championship against them," joked Mystics guard Kristi Toliver, who was on the Los Angeles Sparks team that bested Minnesota in the 2016 WNBA Finals, "so I feel good about that."

Just when it looked like the Lynx's run was over earlier this season when the team sported a 3-6 record, the Lynx corrected the ship, winning their next seven games. Minnesota entered the all-star break at 15-10, just a game behind Atlanta for the No. 2 seed. The Lynx are well-represented this weekend with four all-stars — Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus. That type of response to adversity is what makes the Lynx great, and it's why Taurasi respects them to no end.

"I have nothing but respect for Minnesota, for coach (Cheryl) Reeve, for what they've been able to do. In such a short time, to be able to put together that many great seasons, it's not easy," Taurasi said. "The WNBA is a grind. You have to have a lot of things go right, and they seem to be able to find a way to make things go their way. No matter how much they struggled at the beginning of this season, you look at the standings, they're there. And they're going to be there. And you have to find a way to beat them.

"That's a challenge that I've always taken really personally, and it brings out the best in you, brings out the best in your team, so I love it."

Wings guard Skylar Diggins-Smith called the Lynx "a first-class organization," adding "there's a reason why they win." She said Dallas' goal is to take on some of the characteristics that define Minnesota, noting the Wings added former Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin to their coaching staff. Diggins noted some teams, like Minnesota, raise the bar, and it's everyone else's job to get up to that level.

"They're a great team," Toliver said. "They have a great coach, great roster, they have good people and great fans, so there's a reason that they've been so good for so long. I love competing against them, because I think they are still one of the best teams in the league, and obviously we just want to get our team onto that level."

Seattle guard Sue Bird said "it's hard not to respect" Minnesota. Not because of the Lynx's successes, but because of how they've achieved them. Bird has gotten a taste of the way Minnesota does things while playing with the likes of Augustus, Moore, Fowles and Lindsay Whalen on Team USA — where she also played under Reeve — and sees that same mentality play out each season.

"You have to admire a team that for so many years, year in and year our, game in and game out, they show up to play," Bird said. "They play hard, they play the right way. ... I can sense what it's like to play for Minnesota, and I have a great deal of respect for it."