Augustus, Whalen Make Quick Impact

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve didn’t wait for the media to pose a question Friday before she started to speak. Who could blame her? The Lynx welcomed back two Olympians to a deep defending championship roster.

If you added Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus into your game plan, you’d be happy, too.

“You can see the smile, right?” Reeve said. “You can see the smile. Getting Lindsay and Seimone back today, it’s just really great to see them. It’s hard to describe when you win a championship together and then in a couple days they’re off to Europe. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to see them for the first time, because it was so special. So we talked a little bit, and then we got right back to work.”

With Whalen and Augustus returning, Reeve watched as the intensity level rose and the cohesiveness grew among the players on the floor. This is a duo that paced the team offensively a year ago, with Augustus averaging 16.2 points per game and shooting 50.4 percent from the field—41.7 percent from 3-point range—and Whalen adding 13.6 points, 5.8 assists and 51.1 percent shooting.

Returning from an offseason in Europe, Whalen said it took a minute for her to get adjusted back into Lynx practice on Friday at LifeTime Fitness Training Center, adding the jet lag and getting re-acquainted with the plays takes a little time. But by the end of practice, she said she was back in the flow of the drills.

“You’re used to playing with everybody. It’s my third year playing with Seimone, second year with Maya. You kind of pick up where you left off,” she said. “That’s what happens when you have an unselfish team. When you have everybody who’s willing to make the pass, willing to play defense and play hard. That’s why we were able to do so well last season.”

Augustus said after about 30-45 minutes of being on the floor, the chemistry was back. She said all the little things—when Whalen will make a pass or where Moore wants the ball—all came back to her pretty quickly.

“Like coach said, we’re just trying to get our mojo back,” Augustus said. “So it was good to get back on the court.”

Their presence was felt right away. Rookie Tavelyn James said even the way Whalen comes off screens sets her apart. Reeve said any offense looks a lot better when Augustus is draining shots.

For Moore, having her teammates back simply kicked the competitiveness of practice up a few notches. She said you can feel their leadership in the building because of their experience and what they expect of the other players.

“They’re two of the funnest players [to play with] because Lindsay Whalen has a way about her. She’ll dive her way into the middle and make an and-one or hit a big play and just lead us really well,” Moore said. “And Seimone, of course, just an exciting player to watch because she’s so good at what she does. And they’re both really selfless and they make sure the team is going to get what they need from them, and it’s always fun to play with players like that.”

Reeve said Augustus is a special player to have in camp, particularly with the youthful roster the Lynx have this week, because younger players can pick up a lot from her. They can try to emulate her moves, but more than anything they can take away the dedication she’s put into her craft. Now in her seventh year, Augustus has grown into being an elite WNBA player and it yielded great success both individually and as a team.

Augustus said being able to win the championship last year earned her a great deal of well wishes from family but also a great deal of future expectations. That made her even more focused heading into this year.

“You’re on Twitter, you’re on Facebook, people were saying it’s time for the back-to-back,” Augustus said. “It put a lot of pressure on you to go overseas to continue to get better so you can be ready to make another run at a championship.”

Whalen said that process begins with Day 1 at camp.

“Right now you have to focus on getting better every day,” Whalen said. “We know people are going to be coming for us being the defending champs. We’re just going to take it day by day. We just have to stay working hard and making sure we’re getting our shots up and having fun. That’s what we did last year. We’re going to continue to work hard and have fun.”

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