LOS ANGELES — Seimone Augustus has almost everything she needs. The newly acquired Los Angeles Sparks guard has a full gym at her disposal for quarantine workouts, her family by her side in Louisiana and her bags packed.
Now all she needs is the green light.
“I’m ready whenever the season is ready to go,” Augustus said Friday on a conference call.
When the WNBA resumes after the COVID-19 pandemic postponed its training camps and season tip, it will mean the beginning of an unexpected chapter to Augustus’ decorated career. The 2006 No. 1 draft pick had spent her entire 14-season career with the Minnesota Lynx before signing with the Sparks in February as a free agent. She won four WNBA titles in Minnesota, earned eight All-Star selections and was named WNBA Finals MVP in 2011.
Such a long, loyal career in Minnesota made signing with another team agonizing, but when negotiations broke down between the Lynx and the 6-foot guard, the Sparks were “one of the first ones that bit.”
“Once we started talking it felt comfortable, it felt genuine,” Augustus said. “It felt true.”
Augustus hinted Friday at a strained relationship with the Lynx, saying “negotiations didn’t go as I expected.” The organization that was bounced from the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two years since winning two championships and advancing to the Finals in a three-year span from 2015-17 was eyeing a rebuild. The 35-year-old Augustus, who previously mentioned retirement at the end of the 2020 season and is now open to possibly prolonging her career, “want(ed) to go out with a bang.” She understood the difficulties of balancing both goals for a franchise.
Augustus said in an Instagram Live video in March that she took less money to sign with the Sparks because the tone of negotiations had soured her on staying with the Lynx. But Minneapolis “will always be a part of me,” she wrote in an Instagram post after signing her free-agency deal.
With the Sparks, Augustus was promised no specific allotment of minutes. That “really doesn’t factor in,” she said. Head coach Derek Fisher and assistant general manager Michael Fischer asked her to bring veteran leadership in a role that might resemble that of retired guard Alana Beard, a two-time defensive player of the year.
“Not necessarily the defensive part,” Augustus added with a chuckle.
Fitting in with a new WNBA team for the first time since her rookie year won’t be too hard for Augustus. The three-time Olympic gold medalist already has experience playing with some of her Sparks teammates. She played on Team USA with guard Chelsea Gray and forward Candace Parker. Augustus was also teammates with forward Nneka Ogwumike for Dynamo Kursk in Russia, where the 2016 WNBA MVP often cooked dinner for the pair. Ogwumike helped sway Augustus toward L.A. by advocating for the area’s robust food options and networking opportunities.
When Augustus signed with the Sparks, Parker welcomed her former Western Conference rival with a short message: “Congrats. Glad you’re here. Let’s get it.”
“To be honest,” Augustus said, “that’s all I really needed to hear.”
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