Seimone Augustus: Health and Expectations. Part Two.
Augustus speaks with SLAM regarding her expectations of the Minnesota Lynx in 2010.
With only a few weeks before her rehab is unofficially over, Seimone Augustus now cannot help but look forward to the 2010 season with great anticipation. The Minnesota Lynx have been in the news quite frequently this off-season, bringing a constant smile to the face of team Chief Operating Officer Roger Griffith. First, they brought in new head coach Cheryl Reeve, who comes from the winning atmosphere of the Detroit —now Tulsa —Shock and their star player is onboard with the hire.
“Her swag is amazing, but it’s not like a cockiness or something like that,” says Augustus. “It’s just a very confident person. The first time I met her, she had that big championship ring on from Detroit and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s how it is, Coach? You’re going to wear your championship ring in here.’ She didn’t throw it in my face like, ‘Yeah, I got a ring.’ It was just, ‘I’m wearing it, so you all can see what you can get.’ We’re on the same page because she’s talking about what I’m talking about.”
Next up for the Lynx was their selection in the dispersal draft of the Sacramento Monarchs. With Nicole Powell heading to New York, the Lynx got the player they wanted in Rebekkah Brunson. She is a veteran, an All-Star and immediately slides into a position that was one of the Lynx weaknesses as far as depth in 2009. Then, of course, the big addition in bringing Lindsay Whalen back home to Minnesota. The question now becomes with a roster that now has five players who have made All-Star teams, as well as Candice Wiggins, will chemistry become an issue?
“That’s something I’m not worried about because everybody’s personalities kind of fit together,” says Augustus. “We don’t have any person that’s kind of overwhelming or any person that won’t take a step back to let the team develop. As far as adding Rebekkah and Lindsay, those two are great adds. Before we even added Rebekkah in the dispersal draft, people were talking about we were possibly going to make it to the playoffs. Once we added her, it was like, ‘Ok, they’re making it to the playoffs.’ Then you add Lindsay and it goes from just making it to the playoffs to now we’re contending for a championship. People are talking about us being in the Finals.”
Augustus all but guarantees that chemistry issue will not be an issue. If the team leader says that, then there is not a reason for anyone else to feel differently.
“Keeping that goal in mind, I think the goal is bigger than our egos,” says Augustus. “We want to win more than we want to sit up here and say, ‘This is my team.’ I don’t feel like it’s going to be a tough job to get us to mesh together. I know Rebekkah, I know Lindsay, I know myself, and we aren’t going to let anybody break this team apart.”
For Augustus individually, the adjustment will be in how to utilize the talent now surrounding her. With the highest scoring average in the history of the WNBA, everyone knows what she does best, but her challenge is to find how to do so without stepping on the development of players who began to shine last year without her.
“I think everything happens for a reason, so me getting injured probably happened so those players could step up and know that they can step up in big games when I’m not in,” says Augustus. “You never know, I may be in foul trouble, so you may have to step up. This was a great experience for those girls and I don’t think that me coming back will make them want to sit back and just relax. I think they know what they can do now with or without me and I just really feel that’s going to make our team that much better, that much stronger and that much tougher to beat. Now they’re playing to the best of their abilities and they’re not laid back saying, ‘Oh, ok, Mone is going to do all the work’ or now that Whalen is here, ‘Lindsay is going to do all the work.’ Everybody knows that they can contribute and it’s just a matter of putting it all together. I think, with everything that happened, it just makes our team that much tougher to beat.”
With the development of the players around her who were on the team last year, as well as the new additions, Augustus looks forward to the fact that the entire weight of the franchise does not rest on her shoulders alone. She has the help coveted since arriving in Minnesota and now that she has the support, re-signing with the Lynx for another four years was a no-brainer.
“My role is a lot easier,” says Augustus. “Talking to Coach, it’s going to be the same thing. She compared our team to the Detroit team and said, ‘You’re the Deanna Nolan of our team, so we’re going to run a lot of offense through you. Even if you don’t get the shot, we’re going to get other people open.’ I still expect a lot of sets to be run my way, but it’s just going to be so much easier on me because Lindsay Whalen is a threat. You can’t just leave her out there because she can shoot. Not only that, but she’s an intelligent player and knows how to get to the paint, do her little crafty layup or dish it to her teammates. You can’t leave Nicky (Anosike) or Charde (Houston) because they’re a threat too, so with five players out there and all of us being threats, it creates havoc for the defense. They can’t just key in on me. My first year, it was everybody get on Seimone and let the other players shoot. Now, the floor is spread, things are opening up and we have more opportunities for other people to do some things to help out. I can kind of sit back, let my teammates go to work and pick my spots to do what I do.”
The off-season is not even complete yet and there are still many free agents out there who could potentially want to be a part of what the Lynx are doing. The Lynx also hold the second and third picks in the upcoming draft, so they have options. They could actually select players with the draft choices or package them in a deal to bring even more talent to the squad, so the Lynx will remain in the WNBA headlines for quite awhile. Yet, as the team stands now, Augustus believes her team is the best team in the league on paper.
“Yeah, I think so,” says Augustus. “If you look at the two teams that played in the Finals last year with Phoenix and Indiana, you can probably go from the point guard to the post player and we match up pretty well with them. Just looking at Phoenix, that looks pretty tough, pretty competitive. That’s a game that I know everybody would like to see… We’re pretty deep too.”
The swagger of her new coach was evident immediately when Reeve stated that achieving a playoff berth is no longer a hope, but an expectation. With a roster stacked already and with many options remaining before training camp, a berth in the WNBA Finals and a championship are also expectations.
“Yes, I definitely agree,” says Augustus. “This has been a long time coming. We went from people laughing at us and knowing that they’re probably going to beat us by 20 every time we stepped on the court to now everybody is like, ‘Ok, we gotta watch out for the Lynx.’ We went from being a very talented team when Z (former Lynx coach Don Zierden) my second year to my third year saying, ‘They’re a very dangerous team.’ Now, this team is tough and this team is a contender. It’s good to hear and it has progressed. Now, we’re the people that’s going to laugh at other people. That’s good.”
One of the most admirable things about Augustus is how she knows the line between confidence and arrogance. As someone who lives in the spotlight, she is a quiet soul. Yet, when thinking ahead to the summer of 2010, she cannot help but get excited, wants fans to share the excitement and also is hoping for a special guest to Lynx games.
“I’d just say be prepared for a very exciting season,” says Augustus. “Expect a team that’s going to be very hungry and determined to do things that have never been done before in Lynx history. We’re just trying to bring a lot of pride and hope to Minnesota like the Vikings did, except for when they lost to my Saints. I had to throw that in there. Expect that not to happen with us because we’re not going to turn the ball over. The Vikings had a great run and everybody backed them and followed them, so our goal is to get Prince out to some of our games. Like I said earlier, have a lot of fun this season. There’s already a lot of buzz with Lindsay Whalen returning, so have a lot of energy and let this push us through the season…and to a championship.”
For a team that has not made the playoffs in years, raising the bar immediately to a championship may be too high. Yet, with the talent on the Minnesota Lynx along with their desire for success, it would not be a surprise to see Augustus and her teammates hoisting the trophy.