MINNEAPOLIS – Seimone Augustus used to show up at the WNBA All-Star game and get pep talks from the other stars at the event.
“Keep grinding,” they would tell her, patting her on the back. “It’ll get better.”
One of the league’s most gifted players, Augustus was toiling away on the Minnesota Lynx, a downtrodden franchise that missed the playoffs in 10 of its first 12 seasons. Augustus appreciated the encouragement from her peers, but she also had to bite her tongue and resist the urge to view it as patronizing.
Most of those stars from women’s basketball will be gathering again this summer in London to play for Team USA, and maybe this time Augustus will return the favor. The Lynx dominated the league last season to win their first championship and beat Phoenix on Friday night to improve to 10-0 this season, setting the mark for the best start in WNBA history.
Oh, and she’s bringing along two of her teammates – Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore – to make the Lynx the most well-represented franchise on Team USA.
It’s been a startlingly fast turnaround from perennial doormat to budding dynasty, and Augustus is loving every minute of it.
Her Lynx have taken over the WNBA. Now they want to conquer the world.
“It’s always fun when you have teammates with you,” said Augustus, who will be appearing in her second Olympics. “The other years I was by myself. … It’s more important to share moments like this with your teammates and bond and really bring some of that winning energy back here.”
Coach Geno Auriemma will be getting three distinct skill sets and personalities in this pack. Whalen is the fiery point guard who doesn’t hesitate to let her voice be heard, Augustus is the soft-spoken scorer who prefers to let her game do the talking and Moore is the polished forward who was groomed in the UConn pressure cooker.
“It’s all about understanding personalities,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Maybe if Seimone needs something, maybe Lindsay can identify it, or Maya, where they can help each other get through. They’ll recognize looks on faces and what they need in a moment.”
Whalen and Moore played on the team that won the gold medal at the world championships in Turkey in 2010, but have yet to play in an Olympics. They can look to Augustus for guidance if need be, but in many ways the Lynx have received a good taste of what they will be facing in London during the defense of their title here in the United States.
No team will be playing with a bigger target on its back in London than the heavily favored Americans, a squad bursting with the best players in the world, including Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings. The team is so deep that none of the three players from what is unquestionably the best team in the WNBA expect to start.