Whalen to be game-time decision

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Lindsay Whalen has a history of coming back from injuries quicker than expected.

In college 1½ years ago while playing for the University of Minnesota, Whalen overcame two broken bones in her shooting hand to return in time for the NCAA Tournament, ultimately leading the Golden Gophers to their first trip to the NCAA Final Four.

Beginning tonight, Whalen hopes to overcome a broken bone in her knee and return to the court for the Connecticut Sun as they continue their quest for their first WNBA title.

Whalen, who suffered a nondisplaced fracture of the tibia in her left knee -- a fracture in the anterior portion of the knee
away from the area that receives most of the stress when running -- last Saturday in the Eastern Conference finals, initially wasn't expected to play in at least the first two games of the series, which opens tonight (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET) at Mohegan Sun Arena as the Sun host the Sacramento Monarchs.

But after three straight days of intense treatment -- up to 12 hours a day of icing, compression, electric stimulus and even acupuncture -- Whalen fully participated -- she was running, cutting, jumping and shooting -- in Wednesday morning's shootaround. The swelling that team physicians said had been causing the most problems has receded.

Sun coach Mike Thibault said it's likely Whalen will start Game 1, though a final decision wasn't expected until tipoff.

"She's going to come here to the gym, warm up and see how it feels," he said Wednesday afternoon. "She is cleared to play. It's going to be Lindsay's decision, whatever she can tolerate. She's a tough kid."

No doubt. Just two days ago, Whalen was on crutches and Thibault wasn't sure she'd even be able to play in the series at all. That put a lot of pressure on the starter-heavy Sun, as well as backup Jennifer Derevjanik, who hasn't started a game this season and only averaged 6.5 minutes in the playoffs. Whalen practically willed the Sun past Detroit in the first round when she averaged a playoff-best 20.0 points per game. In the playoffs, Whalen -- who came back just 5½ weeks after suffering the broken bones in her shooting hand in college -- is averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists and has been the cog in the Sun's machine.

Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.