Commentary

Forward Brunson boosts Lynx

Rebounder and defensive stalwart is after her third WNBA championship

Originally Published: October 7, 2013
By Michelle Smith | espnW.com

Rebekkah BrunsonDavid Sherman/NBAE via Getty ImagesRebekkah Brunson grabbed five offensive rebounds in Sunday's Game 1 win.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rebekkah Brunson has a look. Brow furrowed, eyes blazing, it is the face that tells her teammates that she is ready to go.

"Except she looks like that every game, because she's always ready to go," Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen said.

Brunson is in her 10th WNBA season. Ask her how old she is and she simply responds, "old." She's 31 and she laughs heartily when reminded that a simple Internet search will yield the answer.

Ask her Minnesota teammates how important she is to what they do and what they hope to accomplish, and they are much less cagey.

"She is so pivotal to the foundation of this team," said Maya Moore, while Whalen called Brunson "our cornerstone."

The 6-foot-2 Brunson has an established legacy as one of the league's most consistent rebounders and best post defenders. She is one of the WNBA's toughest players to keep off the boards, and a physical, relentless opposing force to the players who wish to get to the rim.

[+] EnlargeRebekkah Brunson
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinRebekkah Brunson and the Lynx are forcing foes into nearly 16 turnovers per game in the playoffs.

As the Lynx prepare for Tuesday's Game 2 of the WNBA Finals against Atlanta (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 8 p.m. ET), Brunson plays a key role inside. Atlanta, which struggled with perimeter shooting in Sunday's Game 1 loss, will be looking to do a better job of penetrating off the dribble and getting the ball to center Erika de Souza.

Brunson stands in the way.

"Brunson has athletic ability, she can defend smaller guards and post players and she's always a threat because of her mobility," Dream coach Fred Williams said. "She's tough."

Moore called Brunson the definition of a pro.

"Rebekkah does one of the hardest things consistently: rebounding and playing defense," Moore said. "To do that as a 10-year veteran, those are two things that take a lot of energy and passion. … I came in my rookie year and looked up to her and I appreciate her even more now."

Brunson has had one of the best years of her career this season, her fourth in Minnesota. She averaged 10.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in the regular season, and matched her career high with 12 double-doubles (she has 42 for her career). In the playoffs, Brunson is averaging 9.4 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

While the Lynx are playing for their second championship, Brunson is playing for her third WNBA title. She won one in Sacramento with the Monarchs back in 2005, then added a second in 2011 with the Lynx a year after they took her in the dispersal draft when the Monarchs folded. She understands the mentality of playing for a title.

"You are a lot hungrier, and you can't leave anything to chance," Brunson said. "That includes the small things, like offensive rebounding. Things like that are game-changers."

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve has seen Brunson's game and her impact evolve. She is a more well-rounded offensive player in 2013, improving her face-up game. And she has taken on more of a leadership role after the retirement of Taj McWilliams-Franklin.

"She knew she had to do more vocally," Reeve said. "Rebekkah is someone who, if she could just come in and do her job and lead by example, she'd be happy. But she had this recognition that we needed her to be more vocal and I've seen her really step up in practice situations. The ability to hold people accountable is a sign of great maturity. So I think she took a step forward, believe it or not, at the age of 31."

Only a decade into her professional career, Brunson said she "knows who I am." She isn't worried about credit or recognition, at least from the outside, which is a good thing considering there's a lot of attention already spread between Moore, Whalen and Seimone Augustus.

But Brunson is used to the spotlight falling elsewhere.

"Rebekkah has been the one who gets talked about the least," Reeve said. "She's always on teams where there is a big name or a high-profile player. But Rebekkah exists in an environment where as long as she knows she's appreciated by her teammates, that's all she cares about."

Brunson acknowledges as much.

"The spotlight tends to go to the people who are going to give you 30 points a night or 12 assists or something," Brunson said. "I don't need it. I know the things I do to help this team be successful and I appreciate it, and my team appreciates it, and I'm fine with that."

Michelle Smith

Contributor, espnW.com

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