- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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Can the Lynx repeat as WNBA champions? How will Brittney Griner's second season play out? Will Tina Charles excel on her new team in New York?
Before the WNBA's 18th season opens Friday, we detail the top 10 storylines this summer.
1. Brittney Griner was the biggest name in the league as a rookie a year ago, but it didn't quite translate to superstardom on the floor the way she -- or the Mercury -- could have hoped. The spotlight will be bright on the 6-foot-8 star once again as she looks to become a huge factor ... and a big target for Diana Taurasi and Phoenix in the paint.
2. Sue Bird is one the greatest point guards in league history and will be back on the floor in Seattle this season after missing last year with a knee injury. Will Bird's return (as Lauren Jackson misses a second consecutive season) be enough to boost the Storm back to relevance out West?
3. Lin Dunn, who has been one of the most successful head coaches in the history of the league -- not to mention one of its most colorful personalities -- will be coaching her final season in Indiana before handing the baton to Stephanie White. Will Tamika Catchings and the Fever be inspired to make a deep title run for their beloved head coach?
4. Tina Charles is home in New York after requesting a trade to the Liberty. Will playing for Bill Laimbeer, and alongside Cappie Pondexter, bring Charles closer to a championship than she was with the Connecticut Sun?
5. The Minnesota Lynx look like everyone's title favorite again, but the news that Monica Wright and Rebekkah Brunson will each miss significant time with knee injuries might expose the limits of the Lynx's usually stacked lineup. Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus will now be required to do even more in order to win the franchise's third title in four years and cement its dynasty status.
6. The Los Angeles Sparks came back from the brink of extinction -- or relocation -- when Magic Johnson bought and saved the team. Can Candace Parker & Co. reward Johnson by finally delivering a title to Los Angeles, the Sparks' first since 2002?
7. Atlanta has reached the WNBA Finals three times in five years -- and come up empty each time. Will coach Michael Cooper be the one who can get Angel McCoughtry and the Dream over the hump?
8. The Ogwumike sisters have played together many times -- including two years during their stellar college careers at Stanford. They've never played against one another. They will do it twice this season when Los Angeles faces Connecticut on July 13 and Aug. 3.
9. The season starts early and ends early thanks to the FIBA World Championship in the fall. The worlds have already impacted the league in that players such as Australians Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage opted to stay home this season and prepare for national team play. Will a condensed schedule have other impacts?
10. Chicago made its first playoff run last season behind the sensational play of rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne, but the Sky already look like they might struggle to go back. Sylvia Fowles is injured and out for the opening stretch of the season and veteran Swin Cash was dealt to Atlanta last month.
17dBonnie D. Ford