MINNEAPOLIS -- When Seimone Augustus entered the locker room before Sunday’s start of Minnesota Lynx training camp, she saw many young faces.
“I was like, ‘Y’all nervous?’ ” she said. “I just told them to relax, it’s basketball. You’ve been playing it for a very long time, and here you are where you always dreamed of being.”
Some will have big roles to fill.
When we last saw the Lynx in action, the starting five was Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Cecilia Zandalasini, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen.
The first three are expected to be on the court for the May 25 season opener.
As for the rest? All but diehard fans may need a program in 2019.
“It’s a little bit weird, but it’s expected. Change comes,” said Augustus, entering her 14th season.
Whalen is coaching at the University of Minnesota, Moore is taking the season off to focus on family and ministry, and Rebekkah Brunson, a long-time rebounding machine, continues to recover from a concussion.
Coach Cheryl Reeve believes this is the “most newness” on a Lynx roster since her first season in 2010. But she knows the Lynx can’t live off the past.
“This calls for something different, and I’ll work really hard to make sure that I’m teaching and bringing along the young ones. I did what that group was at that time. This is a different time in our franchise.”
“That group” won WNBA crowns in the last four odd-numbered years (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) and will need to do a lot of meshing of new and old players to retain its lofty status. The Lynx went 18-16 last year and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
That starts with Fowles, Augustus and Danielle Robinson, who is 100 percent after left ankle surgery.
“She has worked probably as hard as I’ve seen anybody in my 19 years in the WNBA in terms of the things she put her body through to be ready,” Reeve said. “Not only is she healed, but her game has gotten better.”
Fowles, an 11-year veteran who is fully healed after playing with an injured left elbow late last season, did not play overseas. “I’m feeling very rested, and I’m just excited to get the season going,” she said.
Who are the 2019 Lynx?
Temi Fagbenle and Erlana Larkins saw varying amounts of time wearing the blue and gray last season. Napheesa Collier is the team’s top draft pick. Former first-round draft pick Lexie Brown was acquired from Connecticut on April 10. Odyssey Sims was acquired April 22 from Los Angeles. Damiris Dantas, Minnesota’s top pick in 2012 who last played for the Lynx in 2014, returns after a year in Atlanta. And Karima Christmas-Kelly signed as a free agent Feb. 1.
Ten of the 19 players in camp have fewer than three years of experience; seven are rookies.
Fowles has been impressed with the youngsters.
“They’re out here doing their thing, and I think they’re making the coaches’ job real hard about who they’ve got to pick for the season,” she said.
Still, it’ll be hard to make up for the loss of Whalen, the heart and soul of the team, and Moore, who averaged 18.4 points while starting every game in the previous eight seasons.
“Maya is Maya, but at the end of the day we’ve got new bodies in here,” Fowles said. “… We’re changing up some things. But at the same time our foundation and our basics are still the same.”