Dream comes true for Anna Cruz as Lynx head to WNBA Finals

Minnesota's Anna Cruz averaged 8.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the regular season, and shot 47 percent from the field. David Sherman/Getty Images

Anna Cruz had a conversation with her agent four or five years ago.

"We talked about maybe one year trying to go to play in the WNBA," the Minnesota guard said. "It was more of a dream. It should be good for me to be able to play there. But I couldn't imagine I would end up here."

By here, the 28-year-old Spaniard means the WNBA Finals, where Cruz and the Lynx are headed after winning the Western Conference title last Sunday in Phoenix.

Minnesota is making its fourth appearance in the championship series in five years, and is going for its third title. Cruz is going for her first. The tempo-pushing point guard came to the Lynx in a draft-day trade between Minnesota and New York. Minnesota traded its 11th, 23rd and 28th overall picks in the draft to New York for Cruz and the 16th and 35th picks.

Cruz started 34 games for the Liberty last season as a 27-year-old rookie.

"She's infused some tempo into the offense. She plays end-to-end, she's speedy and she looks up the floor. We play faster with Anna out on the floor." Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve on Anna Cruz

She averaged 7.7 points per game for New York and shot 35 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. She started 34 games, averaging 27.1 minutes.

The move took Cruz by surprise.

"I didn't expect to be here, on this team," Cruz said. "It's exciting to be able to play with players like Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen."

And this season, Cruz arrived to join the Lynx 10 games into the season after helping to lead the Spanish national team to a bronze medal in the EuroBasket Tournament.

Cruz wasn't expecting to play a lot of minutes. But injuries to guards Seimone Augustus and Whalen, and the absence of top reserve guard Monica Wright -- out this season after knee surgery -- pushed Cruz into the lineup for serious minutes.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she brought Cruz to the Lynx because she was a strong perimeter defender who would also push tempo in transition.

"I feel fortunate to have gotten her," Reeve said. "She's infused some tempo into the offense. She plays end-to-end, she's speedy and she looks up the floor. We play faster with Anna out on the floor."

Reeve called Cruz a "tenacious defender" who has taken pressure off of Whalen and Augustus, both of whom missed time in the stretch of the season.

"She knows I can play hard defense, spread the ball and I like to run," Cruz said. "And when I'm open, I will take my shot. I tried to do the best I can when I play."

Cruz joked about her advanced age for only being a second-year WNBA player.

"Yeah, I'm old," Cruz said, adding, "It just happened like that. Last year I had the opportunity to go to New York so I went. I honestly didn't expect Minnesota to be interested in me."

Reeve said Cruz's international experience distinguishes her from the typical young player.

"She's seen high-level competition and she's well-versed in playing against top players," Reeve said. "We brought her here to be a reserve, but she's worked really hard and we've needed her more and more."

In 22 games for Minnesota, she averaged 8.0 points.

"She hit some huge shots for us against Phoenix," Reeve said. "She knows she has the green light."

Sunday in the Western Conference finals against Phoenix, Cruz hit two of the biggest shots of the game: a pair of timely 3-pointers in Minnesota's 72-71 win.

"I know this is the best league in the world and I feel happy to be here," Cruz said.

Here in the WNBA. And here in the WNBA Finals.