Seattle left the court all smiles this morning after shoot-around, but so did Minnesota. The Lynx (4-2) are making their first step into the season without leading scorer Seimone Augustus (21.0), who suffered a torn ACL in a loss at Phoenix on Wednesday.
Minnesota has just 10 players available tonight and is looking to sign a replacement for the roster.
“I’ll tell you what, they don’t look like a scared team without Seimone,” Minnesota coach Jennifer Gillom said. “They look like a confident team and a team that’s really wanting to win, wanting to prove something. That’s the type of mentality you’ve got to have in order to have a chance to win. I’m really happy with the way they’ve practiced the past two days.”
Gillom ran sets with three different possible starters to replace Augustus in the lineup, not revealing who it could be. Roneeka Hodges and rookie Rashanda McCants are two possibilities. But Augustus has been on the horn with her teammates, getting them mentally prepared for what’s ahead.
One of the calls on the way to KeyArena for the shoot-around session was to G Candice Wiggins (pictured right by the WNBA), who Augustus has mentored since Minnesota drafted the former Stanford star last season.
“She said here you go,” Wiggins said. “We cannot spend any time dwelling on the past, we have to move forward and we have to all step up. My role has increased completely just as a leader, doing the things Mone did and putting that pressure on yourself. A lot of people don’t realize all of the pressure she really was under just being a leader.
“The loss of Mone is so big for us. Not having her here physically is hard, but at the same time, it has to be done. We have to make it into a positive.”
Wiggins is shooting well this season, 34.5 percent from the field to average 11.5 points. But the Lynx need her splashy numbers from last season when she’d pop off the bench and have 20-plus point games in averaging 15.7 points as a rookie.
“I have to step up in terms of scoring,” she said. “I have to step up in terms of defense. You need all of that stuff because that’s what Seimone was doing. And you have to rely on your teammates to have your back. Bringing points is what I’m known to do and I’m working on that, but I’m also working on being a good leader for this team.”
That’s in addition to Charde Houston (17.8) and Nicky Anosike (13.5) playing well. Both benefited from the focus being on Augustus, an Olympian, yet there can be no excuses in order for Minnesota to pull through another rough adjustment period.
KeyArena fans are sympathetic, first seeing Augustus shine at NCAA regionals at Washington with her former LSU. But that’ll end once the ball is tipped. The Storm kicked ticket sales into high gear with TV and radio spots, so there could be a good crowd on hand to celebrate Father’s Day and just the second home game of the season.
Seattle (3-2) begins a stretch of seven games against Western Conference opponents. This weekend’s stretch of Minnesota and Phoenix (4-1) is huge because both teams currently rank ahead of Seattle in the standings.
“It’s a huge challenge tonight, it’s the first test and I’m up for it,” said Wiggins, whose team lost by an average of 16.5 points to Seattle in two games last season at KeyArena. Wiggins averaged 15.0 points in the matchups. “I have to grow up. I remember last year and being a little ‘fawn in the headlights.’ That’s all over. I know if I leave it all on the court, good things are going to happen and I am excited.”