It would have been different, Seimone Augustus said, if this had been a regular season. If it had been a game, perhaps at Target Center, in front of thousands of fans, with her walking through those doors for the first time in her 15-year career as a member of the visiting team.
But it isn’t.
Augustus is now with the Los Angeles Sparks, who will play the Lynx on Sunday inside the WNBA bubble at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Doesn’t it feel strange to read that sentence?
And Augustus, who stunned just about everyone by signing with the Sparks during free agency after playing 14 seasons and winning four titles with the Lynx, admits that is odd. But, in the bubble, she has already met with her former colleagues, and joked and laughed with Sylvia Fowles, Lynx assistant and former teammate Rebekkah Brunson, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve.
“We’ve engaged,’’ Augustus said in a Zoom conference call with reporters. “But it’s always going to be weird. I won two championships with Syl. I won four with Rebekkah. It’s always going to be an odd feeling.’’
One of the best players in league history, Augustus’ final year in Minnesota was plagued by injuries, limiting her to 12 games and 45 points. Feeling better this year, coming off the bench for a talented Sparks team, she has been effective. She has appeared in five games — she was rested in L.A.’s loss to Las Vegas on Friday night — averaging 9.2 points and 17.4 minutes. She is shooting 55.6% overall and has made six of nine three-pointers.
Frankly, nearly a third of the way through the league’s compressed 22-game season, Augustus’ decision to move west appears to be working out for both teams.
The Lynx improved to 5-1 with a victory over Indiana on Friday. There have been injuries at the guard position — Shenise Johnson will miss her third game Sunday because of a strained hamstring and Lexie Brown missed two games while in concussion protocol. But Brown has returned and stuffed the score sheet in two straight games, including a career night Friday. And rookie point guard Crystal Dangerfield has shown promise given the opportunity. Odyssey Sims is on the cusp of returning. And there is a chance that, had Augustus re-signed with the Lynx, a roster spot might not have been available for someone like Bridget Carleton, who has been strong off the bench.
But it is always difficult parting ways after 14 years and four titles.
Reeve said the pressures of the schedule have left little time for reflection. She didn’t think much about the Sparks, or about Augustus, until prep work started after Friday’s game. But when she sees Augustus in a Sparks uniform Sunday afternoon?
“I don’t know if weird is the right word,’’ she said. “Obviously different. But Seimone is a Spark now. Like other big moves this year. DeWanna Bonner is a Sun now. It’s weird to explain how fast things move. … She chose a different path. I’m glad she’s happy.’’
When she first made the decision, Augustus made a lengthy post on her Instagram account, one that included thanks to the Lynx organization, the fans and the state. Later on into the offseason, she posted a video on YouTube that was a bit more somber regarding how talks with the Lynx broke down. “I was hoping to go back to the Lynx,’’ she said in the video. “But things happen. And it really shocked and confused me.’’
The tone was more one of disappointment than anger.
Saturday, Augustus didn’t go into any specifics of what happened in those negotiations with the Lynx. If the issue was her role or her playing time, for example.
“It happens,’’ she said of the split. “It’s just unfortunate that you spent 14 years somewhere and you have a vision of how things will end, and it doesn’t end that way. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t have that happy ending, it just wasn’t the one you planned for.’’
And her memories? “Something I will always cherish,’’ she said of her Lynx seasons. “I grew up. I came in as a young woman and I left there as an adult that learned so much in life. I had many experiences in Minnesota.’’
Augustus began her career as a high-scoring star on a losing team. By the time she left, the Lynx were four-time champions. “We’re mentioned in the ranks of a Houston Comets team that basically started it all for this league,” she said. “I’m definitely happy for my time in Minnesota, the fans, the city, everyone I was able to experience and share moments with.’’
It’s up to others
Not surprisingly, Augustus was loathe to discuss her legacy, even at this point in her career. “I put a body of work together, whether it’s on or off the court,’’ she said. “I think everyone else decides your legacy.’’
But, with the league embracing social justice causes at an unprecedented level, she is proud she was ahead of that curve. It was back in 2016 when, in the wake of the shooting of Philando Castile, she and teammates Brunson, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen donned T-shirts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during pregame activities.
“In the four years since we wore those shirts and we had that situation in Minnesota to now?’’ she said, “It’s been amazing to see the growth. And see how the league, the players started to use their voices. … We have more courage as we see what’s happening in this world, what needs to change in this world.’’
After sitting Friday, Augustus said she felt good and was looking forward to Sunday’s game. It might be odd. But, she said, there won’t be hard feelings.
“I don’t bear ill will to anyone or any situation,’’ she said. “Change happens, as we know in life.’’