In early July, Seimone Augustus reported for yet another WNBA season putting on a different jersey for the first time in her legendary career.
After 14 seasons with the Minnesota Lynx, Augustus took the floor alongside new coaches and teammates while representing a new organization when Los Angeles Sparks training camp commenced prior to the start of the 2020 WNBA season on July 25 at IMG Academy in Florida.
Following a tenure in Minnesota that included multiple league championships, becoming the organization’s all-time leading scorer and arguably being the best player to ever play for the Lynx, Augustus is embarking on a new journey in her already Hall of Fame caliber career this summer.
Earlier this offseason, Augustus shocked the WNBA world when she decided to leave Minnesota to join its rival Los Angeles in free agency to chase another championship in a shortened season unlike any other.
When the 22-game regular season followed by a traditional playoff format kicks off July 25 in one central location in Bradenton, Fla., Augustus will begin her 15th season in the WNBA with perhaps a year or two left in the tank before ultimately hanging up her shoes.
This time around, when the season finally tips off, the all-time great will be trading in the Lynx blue and gray jersey for a purple and yellow Sparks jersey.
“My goals are the same as every other year. I’ve never been concerned with individual awards, accolades and all that stuff. I’m a team player and I want to win,” Augustus said on Friday. “My main focus is what I can do to help my team win. Whether that’s passing knowledge, coming into the game bringing energy, scoring points or playing defense. At this point in my career, I’m just trying to win. That’s what means the most for me.”
AN OFFSEASON OF FRUSTRATION, CONFUSION
In an offseason that has been filled with many topics in society, including the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing social justice movement in the country, it was also an offseason of frustration and confusion for Augustus personally.
As the 2019 season concluded, Augustus entered the offseason as a free agent, with many assuming she would return to Minnesota in 2020 for what the Lynx great planned on being her final season in the league.
But in February, contract negotiations between the Lynx and Augustus took a turn, resulting in the veteran looking to play elsewhere for the first time ever.
“Y’all understood I was hoping to go back to the Lynx. Things happen and it really shocked me and confused me,” Augustus said on her Instagram Live shortly following the announcement she signed with Los Angeles. “All the feelings that (Lynx fans) have, that was the same feelings that I had. The confusion, the frustration, disappointment, everything. I didn’t expect that’s how any of that was going to go.
“The fact that I even had to, after 14 years, even open up the door to other teams to talk to. Like, 14 years, people knew not to even come talk to me because I was going back to the Lynx. The negotiations were going so far left for me that I had to open the door to other teams. … If I was going to leave, I was going to leave for something and I have to make the best of the situation.”
Augustus continued to open up on Instagram Live about her frustrations and surprise surrounding negations with Minnesota, adding it was tough on both her and her family to be forced to look elsewhere to sign after 14 seasons with the Lynx.
“It was probably the most stressful situation I’ve ever dealt with because you are talking about 14 years. Fourteen years of growth, evolving,” Augustus said on Instagram. “A part of me is confused still. A part of me is still a little bit frustrated, but life goes on. When things happen, they happen for a reason and there is always something good on the other side. What is that? I don’t know yet.
“Minnesota offered more money than LA, but it was never about the money. It’s about the way you engage with people, especially someone you spent so much time with. … If I really wanted money, I would have just gone back to Minnesota and got more money, but it wasn’t about the money. All money isn’t good money if it’s going to disturb your peace. If it’s going to disturb your peace, it’s not worth it. For me, I would rather be happy and at peace with what my situation is than anything.”
There’s no question it will be odd to see Augustus sporting a Sparks jersey rather than a Lynx jersey like we’ve seen for the entirety of her career, but what might be even more odd to see is when she squares off against her now former team twice during the course of the 2020 campaign.
Augustus and Los Angeles will take on Minnesota for the first time on Aug. 9, with that game tipping off at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2. The second matchup will take place at 7 p.m. CT on Aug. 26 on CBS Sports Network.
The rivalry between the Sparks and the Lynx was already heated, as the teams have established one of the best rivalries in the league over the last decade. But now, there’s another dynamic at play.
“Any time you spend 14 seasons with one team and then it comes to a point where you have to make a change, change is uncomfortable for anyone at any place in your life,” Augustus told Zone Coverage. “It was a little bit difficult for me to envision myself elsewhere.
“It’s just been amazing how people have welcomed me and made me feel more comfortable, knowing the situation that I’m coming out of and into. (The Sparks) know that I have more games behind me than I do in front of me and they want to help me maximize this time that I have left to play the game that I love.”
A NEW BEGINNING IN LA
In year 15, Augustus has high hopes for the upcoming season with her new team, hoping to make at least one more run at a WNBA championship to add to her lengthy resume.
With maintaining health at the forefront of her objectives personally, she also hopes she can do whatever Los Angeles needs her to do either in a starting role or coming off the bench in 2020.
“I was working with my doctors back home and the training staff there just to get my body healthy and to 100 percent. My focal point was the get back here and get as close to 100 percent as I can be,” Augustus said on Friday. “After speaking with Coach Fisher and coordinated trainers, they’ve come up with a great game plan as far as making sure that I can stay healthy. … You don’t want to go full-fledged, full speed too soon and pull a hamstring or twist ankles, because things like that occur.”
Outside of her abilities on the court, Augustus has already helped the Sparks off the court as well. As many Lynx fans have been aware of from her time in Minnesota, Augustus’ joking and positive personality is one that can lighten up any situation.
Sparks head coach Derek Fisher added at the start of training camp that, although he was somewhat familiar with Augustus, he didn’t know just how big of an impact she would have on the team morale. Fisher, who played in the NBA for 18 seasons highlighted by 13 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, compared her positive personality to that of Shaquille O’Neal‘s with the Lakers.
“I didn’t know how much she would impact us in terms of her personality and who is as a woman,” Fisher said. “I had no idea she was as funny as she is and some of those moments where she is just cracking everybody up. It brings a level a brevity and lightness to sometimes what can feel mundane when you’re coming to practice and workouts and shooting and practicing every day. Seimone is amazing at breaking that up and giving us all reasons to feel like the game is supposed to be fun. Every time she walks in, there’s a light about her that I think has positively impacted our group.
“It reminds me of what Shaq used to offer for our teams in my first eight years in LA,” Fisher continued. “Shaq was one of the most dominant and most accomplished players on the court, but his sense of humor and the fact that he always wanted to find a way to bring a laugh or joy to everybody, that helped us to fight the pressure that great teams have to battle. That’s really what caught me by surprise. The first few times I met Seimone, she maybe said two words. Since we’ve been (in Florida), the real Seimone has arrived and it’s been fun to be around her every day.”
The 2020 season will be a new journey for Augustus for multiple reasons, whether that’s playing in the bubble location of IMG Academy during a unique season or the fact she will be taking the floor for a new team for the first time. But Augustus is excited for the new opportunity to finish out the rest of her legendary WNBA career with the Sparks for at least the next year beginning July 25.
“I haven’t had too much of an adjustment. What’s happening in the bubble, the quarantine, that’s me every day,” Augustus said. “I go to work, I go back home and I’m in my comfort zone and my space. This is my comfort zone here … I’m actually really relaxed.”