For the first time since the 2008 Olympics, the U.S. women's basketball team will take part in a major competition without Maya Moore, who is taking a needed break.
In fact, none of the four-time WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx players are on the American team that will compete in the FIBA Women's World Cup, which begins Saturday in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. (Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is there as an assistant to USA head coach Dawn Staley).
Minnesota's Moore, Sylvia Fowles, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus were all on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams, although Fowles hadn't yet joined the Lynx in '12. They've all played in the World Cup, as well. Participation on the senior national team by at least one of these four players started in 2006, when Augustus was on the World Cup team after her WNBA rookie season.
But retirement (Whalen), plus injury/fatigue (Moore, Augustus, Fowles) have kept them all off the 2018 World Cup roster. The same goes for players such as Dallas' Skylar Diggins-Smith and Los Angeles' Chelsea Gray. The Sparks' Candace Parker wasn't selected to the 2016 Olympic team, and that essentially ended her relationship with USA Basketball.
Moore's national team history dates back to the 2010 World Cup, which she played in at the start of her senior year at UConn. Like most players, Moore said she found the 2018 WNBA season to be extremely taxing, and rest became a priority.
"I can't remember a year that has been as demanding as this one," Moore said. "Coming from overseas to the compressed season, which everybody witnessed was an unbelievably competitive and tough season, top to bottom.
"It's a sacrifice for the players who are currently competing, representing the U.S. right now; they are giving of themselves above and beyond this year. We do that every time we participate in multiple seasons every year, but this one especially. I'm hoping the players over there can stay healthy, enjoy it and do well."
Moore played in Russia last winter/spring, winning the EuroLeague final four title with UMMC Ekaterinburg in April. She arrived back in Minnesota shortly before the 2018 WNBA season began. The Lynx finished 18-16 and in seventh place, losing their first-round playoff game to the Sparks.
Moore averaged 18.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in the regular season, and she was the MVP of the All-Star Game in Minneapolis is July. Still, she looked weary at times -- which is understandable after multiple years of nearly nonstop competition.
"It's been an interesting year," said Moore, who turned 29 in April. "I worked really hard, and I'm proud of everything I was able to give this year. But I'm definitely trying to get some rest, just recover and change the pace and get refreshed. I'm trying to take advantage of being home for a little while. I'm taking time off; I don't have any contract overseas right now."
One thing Moore is doing, though, is working with a program called "Most Valuable Coach," which is sponsored by U.S. Cellular and honors coaches at kindergarten through high school levels. People can vote via the award's website for their favorites among the 50 nominees. There will be three ultimate winners chosen via a combination of voting and an expert panel, which includes Moore and Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb. The first-place winner gets a $50,000 award, plus a $30,000 prize package for his or her school.
One of Moore's longtime teammates, Whalen, already has transitioned into her next career: women's basketball coach at Minnesota. And having played for two of the most prominent coaches in the sport, UConn's Geno Auriemma and the Lynx's Reeve, Moore has some strong feelings about what makes good coaches, regardless of what level they're at.
"Great coaches help create an environment that makes the players want to be successful and work hard and accomplish goals for their teammates," Moore said. "Lindsay is wired that way already as someone who thinks about what her teammates need. That will carry over to what her staff and players need.
"And I think she's going to have the vision of what the program needs to look like, which is the most important thing as a coach. You can have X's and O's, you can have talent, but if you don't have a vision, it won't work."
"I worked really hard, and I'm proud of everything I was able to give this year. But I'm definitely trying to get some rest, just recover and change the pace and get refreshed." Maya Moore, on taking some time off from basketball
Would Moore consider coaching someday? She said working with younger kids is intriguing, at least in some capacity, if not actually being a high school, college or pro coach.
"Something that is unique to coaching young people is there is such a range of talent, skill development and personality," Moore said. "And it's important to coach age-appropriately. You want to instill the fundamentals, always. But the right fundamentals.
"What defines 'success' -- answering that question -- is so important when you're growing up as an athlete. Success for one kid is different than for another kid."
Championships have typically defined success for Moore. After winning her fourth WNBA title with the Lynx in 2017, Moore acknowledged that it was strange to be a spectator for most of the playoffs this year and now the World Cup. But it's also part of the ebb and flow of the careers of even the most accomplished players.
"What we've done with a lot of the teams I've played for is so not normal, with the consistency of being in the postseason," Moore said. "A little taste of 'normal' is probably good for us. Maybe makes us appreciate things even more."