For nearly the last decade, the veteran presence on the Minnesota Lynx could be found really anywhere on the roster.
From an experienced coaching staff to a roster often filled with older, more experienced players, that leadership and display of a championship mindset was something Minnesota never really had to worry about preaching to any of its players.
But as the 2019 season gets underway, the Lynx see themselves without a handful of players who have helped lead the franchise throughout one of the most successful stretches in WNBA history — including the likes of Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson.
With a decent amount of roster turnover taking place throughout the offseason, Minnesota will head into the new year looking to lean on two key veterans who have been a part of the franchise throughout a majority of its success, that being Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles.
“It’s really important (to have them), really important. Especially for it to be those two, because they are both so giving as teammates and they embrace the idea of teaching,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “As I told them, I don’t want them to have to start worrying too much. That’s what can start to happen, you worry about everyone else and not yourself.
“I’ve been there with that and I’ve talked to Syl about being there for everyone else, but to work on her game and what’s necessary. Otherwise your head can just start spinning when you are worrying about everyone else. Syl is just so selfless that she wants to help.”
Augustus, likely entering one of her last seasons in the WNBA, is beginning her 14th year in the league — all of which she’s spent in Minnesota. She enters the year leading the Lynx franchise in total points (5,836), field goals made (2,381), games played and started (358) and minutes (10,763). She also ranks third in assists (871) and fourth in total rebounds (1,184) in franchise history.
“We’re here to help. Me, Syl and some of the other players that have experience are here to help those players get through whatever they may go through,” Augustus said of stepping into more of a leadership role this season. “I can’t be the shy girl that I was back in 2006, I have to be more vocal and obviously continue to lead by example when I’m on the floor. But also just pass on the knowledge that I know.
“I just told (the younger players) to relax, it’s basketball. You’ve been playing it for a very long time and here you are where you’ve always dreamed of being.”
Fowles, who has been with the Lynx since they traded for her during the 2015 season, will be heading into her 12th year in the WNBA in 2019. She has been a part of Minnesota’s championship teams in 2015 and 2017, also winning the WNBA and Finals MVP awards during that 2017 title run.
“I felt like I was (a leader) when we had everybody else here. Lindsay (Whalen) pretty much set that tone and we pretty much just followed that foundation. It’s easy to pick up when you have that set foundation, so my job is pretty much the same,” Fowles said. “I talk a little bit every now and then, but not too much where I overstep my boundaries, but I try to lead by example for the most part.
“My role is pretty much the same, and that’s to go out there and to play hard the best way that I can. Make sure I’m leading, make sure that I’m being vocal and make sure I am doing what I do best and that’s just being me.”
Another key remaining piece from the 2018 roster that Minnesota will likely turn to for veteran leadership this season is Danielle Robinson, who will receive a larger role both on the court and in the locker room with the absence of Whalen.
The Lynx acquired Robinson prior to last season in a trade with the Phoenix Mercury, having her serve primarily as a backup to Whalen in her inaugural year in Minnesota.
Although the team’s new starting point guard — who is entering her eighth WNBA season — hasn’t been in Minnesota as long as Augustus and Fowles, the Lynx will look to Robinson to help get the new additions on the team up to speed as soon as possible.
“It’s something that I went through with Lindsay last year, she taught me a lot,” Robinson said. “To pass it on, it’s special and an honor. We have great guards here, they are willing to learn and they play hard, so that’s something we don’t have to teach. It makes it easy.”
Stressing the importance of veteran leadership and encouraging players to step up into those key roles is a new thing for Minnesota to have to go through in 2019, but you can add it to the list of things that appear different with this team as it enters the new year.
As the season gets underway — with the preseason kicking off against Washington on Friday and the regular season beginning against Chicago on May 25 — the Lynx are looking for Augustus and Fowles, with an assist from their new starting floor general Robinson, to provide that leadership all year long.
“To me, it’s expected. It’s expected that they continue to be leaders,” Reeve said. “We always lead by committee as far as leadership, so it’s Seimone, it’s Syl and it’s Danielle. Those are my three captains, so it’s always been by committee and they bounce things off of each other.
“I’ve always said this, you go as your captains go, so for us, we will go as Danielle, Syl and Seimone go. If they are going well, playing well and connected with their teammates, we will do well.”
Make sure to check back at Zone Coverage throughout the opening week of training camp to check out our extensive coverage of the Minnesota Lynx as they prepare for the start of the 2019 WNBA season.