Dynasty to rebuild: Lynx have new look for 2019

Seimone Augustus was asked Wednesday about being one of two seasoned veterans to return to the Minnesota Lynx after the departures of Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson, who hasn’t returned since suffering a concussion late last season.

“Dang, that made me feel old,” the 35-year-old Lynx forward said.

The Lynx are hoping that Augustus, like fine wine, gets better with age. She’s entering her 14th WNBA season with the Lynx and will be leaned on to shoulder the load along with Sylvia Fowles, who is embarking on her 12th WNBA season and fifth with the Lynx.

The reality for the Lynx is they will have a much different feel and a vastly different look when they open the season May 25, hosting the Chicago Sky. Moore stepped away for at least one season to pursue ministry and spend time with family. Whalen retired and recently completed her first season as Gophers’ women’s basketball coach. Brunson has yet to recover from a concussion late last season.

“I mean things happen. I guess in my mind we all had it planned out how it would be, but things never go the way you plan it to,” Augustus said. “We’ve enjoyed the journey with Maya, Whay, Brunson. But we’ve also got to now create a Maya, a Whalen, a Brunson out of the players we have and it’s going to take some time. But you can definitely see the potential and see the talent.”

At Lynx media day Thursday, coach Cheryl Reeve didn’t have an update on a possible return for Brunson. She did say, though, that communication is open between the two.

“The last conversation I had with Rebekkah was that we were going to stay in touch, we hoped that there would be progress. She’s not yet elevated to that next level of working out. When that happens, I’m sure I’ll hear from her,” Reeve said. “That’s all we can do, it’s not a case that we don’t want her or aren’t in touch with her. It’s just not progressing.”

The Lynx are coming off an 18-16 season and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the L.A. Sparks. Many faces might be different, but the goals and expectations remain the same.

The Lynx traded for Odyssey Sims last month, with the hope that Sims and Danielle Robinson can help fill the void left by the retired Whalen.

Sims got off to a promising start with 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists in last Friday’s preseason win over the Washington Mystics. Robinson added 13 points and five assists in more than 25 minutes.

Sims has been given the green light to shoot, and to play with confidence.

“I can’t say enough how big of a get that was for us,” Reeve said. “We need her to score. I told her the first day, her eyes got big, I’m not going to tell you you took a bad shot. Take shots, go be you,” Reeve said. “She’s a huge part of our identity and putting the ball in the hole. We need that help, Sylvia Fowles needs that help.”

The Lynx also have Robinson, a three-time WNBA All-Star, who is coming off a season-ending ankle injury last year that had her sidelined three months. She’s back now and is one of the leaders at practice.

Robinson is a captain, along with Fowles, Minnesota’s top returning scorer and rebounder. She had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the preseason win over Washington. She’s ready for anything that might be thrown at her this season and is refreshed by new, young talent on the court during training camp.

“I love coming to practice every day and being around these kids. Just the energy that they give, they work hard and they are themselves, so you’ve got a lot of silliness going around,” Fowles said. “They just make you want to be there and do your job.”

The Lynx also added Napheesa Collier of UConn, Jessica Shepard of Notre Dame and Minneapolis native Kenisha Bell in the WNBA Draft. Collier and Shepard could make an immediate impact, while Bell will have to battle for a roster spot after a standout senior year with the Gophers.

With many new faces sporting Lynx jerseys this season, the team might look different. The team’s identity, however, remains rock solid. They’re going to play with energy, defend and rebound. Their biggest challenge, Reeve said, will be efficiency on offense. That can happen when you lose Moore, Whalen and Brunson.

“Any team that we ever coach here with the Minnesota Lynx, that there’s an effort about the way we do our business and how we treat each other at the core of what we do. That’s what I want our identity to be,” Reeve said.

We’ll find out throughout the season if it’s enough to get the Lynx to the postseason, something that’s previously been an afterthought. The Lynx have been to the WNBA Playoffs eight straight seasons, and have won four championships since 2011.