Inside the trade that brought Lindsay Whalen home and launched the greatest decade for a team in WNBA history

Lindsay Whalen sat in a restaurant in Prague on Jan. 12, 2010, eating a traditional Czech dinner with her husband, her best friend from childhood and her best friend’s husband. They were taking advantage of Whalen’s season with ZVVZ USK Prague to tour the city together and decided to cap the day with a nice meal.

Whalen’s phone rang. Her agent was on the other end. The trade, the one that would send the 27-year-old point guard to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for Renee Montgomery and the Lynx’s No. 1 pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft, would become national news in half an hour.

Whalen hung up the phone, exhaled and shared the news with the table. Champagne was ordered. They raised their glasses high and toasted to the end of a successful six years in Connecticut, and the fulfillment of a dream. The idea of returning to Minnesota, where Whalen grew up and played college ball, had always been in the far corners of her mind. Now, as she sat in a foreign place an ocean away, it was real.

“We kind of toasted to the new beginning,” Whalen says today, “but also to the great friendships that I had made along the way.”

It was a bittersweet sip.

Whalen had already talked about the trade with Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault. After six seasons together, the team and circumstances had changed. The trade offered each of them an opportunity to revive their careers — Thibault to rebuild the Sun with young talent and Whalen to return home and help turn around the Lynx.

That spring, Whalen arrived at Lynx training camp alongside perennial All-Star Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson, picked second by the Lynx in the December 2009 dispersal draft after the Sacramento Monarchs folded. Under first-year head coach Cheryl Reeve, the Lynx scraped together 13 wins without much fanfare. The next April, they drafted Maya Moore with the first pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft.

What happened over the course of the next decade — four WNBA championships in seven years — is now basketball lore.

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