Posted at 7:33 AM on June 5, 2009
by David Zingler
The Minnesota Lynx tip off their 11th season tomorrow at Target Center vs. the Chicago Sky. If the Lynx are going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 (and just the 3rd time in franchise history), they will need a MVP-type season from Seimone Augustus.
I caught up with Augustus last week for a quick chat:
DZ: You had a pretty eventful WNBA offseason - there is no real offseason for you guys - your team won the Euro Cup and you were the Player of the Year. Talk a little about that.
AUGUSTUS: It was my best offseason by far. It was just a great experience, getting playoff experience, I guess you could say. I had Sophia Young (of the San Antonio Silver Stars) on my team, it was kind of fun to play with a player who had been through the playoffs (in the WNBA) and learn how to get that mentality, that mindset, that confidence to know that you can actually go out there and compete in a tough situation in a playoff atmosphere.
DZ: How would you compare the play over there to the WNBA?
AUGUSTUS: It's more physical. We don't get away with a lot of stuff here as far as knick-knack calls and stuff, but it's draw blood before you get a foul which is good because it tests your physical abilities as well as your mental abilities.
DZ: Is it a little less athletic and more grind it out?
AUGUSTUS: You kind of grind it out. It depends and who you are playing, sometimes the teams come up from Division II to Division I so the players aren't as good as some of the top teams in that league, but on any given night you can get (a good team).
DZ: How were you able to keep up with the team back home, with all of the moves going on?
AUGUSTUS: (Former) Coach Z (Don Zierden) called me a couple of times to talk about the decisions being made. I was pleased with the moves. I know what direction the organization is trying to go in. We are trying to build a team to be here for the future and be contenders in the playoffs for years to come. I am happy with the decisions.
DZ: It's your 4th year now and it's basically your team now. You are the only one who was here even two years ago.
AUGUSTUS: (laughs) I know.
DZ: Does that blow your mind when you think about it?
AUGUSTUS: I think about it. It's hard when you think about girls like Vanessa (Hayden), people who I have bonded with, who I have had close relationships with. They were like my sisters, (but) they are all gone now. They took me under their wing and taught me the ropes and now I am the one who has to teach players like Renee (Montgomery) and Nicky (Anosike). I kind of feel like the grandma now, but I am glad and I am blessed that I had the opportunity to play with those players and gain a lot of knowledge from them.
DZ: You've been All Star, set scoring records, but haven't been to playoffs. Is it playoffs or bust this year?
AUGUSTUS: We are always disappointed when we don't make the playoffs especially when we play as hard as we do. With this team that we have being so athletic, so talented, we expect to be there this year, but I wouldn't say it would be a bust - it would be something we would probably regret, not making it but at the same time, I feel like if we give everything we have and go out and compete every night and we just happen to miss it, there's nothing to hang our heads about.
DZ: One last thing, with the roster reduction (from 13 to 11) and the Comets being gone, the competition should be at another level this year.
AUGUSTUS: I think so. Many teams aren't changing much and like you said we're losing players, but I don't think you're losing core player...but for the core players it's going to be really hard. Your going to expect the players on the bench to come and perform like the starters do.
DZ: I know I said that was the last one, but I lied - who do you like better, Kobe or Lebron?
AUGUSTUS: (laughs) I was just reading an article about that in Slam Magazine - woooo - that's a tough one: Black Mamba or The Chosen One. I am going to have to go with The Chosen One. He makes his teammates better; he brings them up a level even if they aren't on his level. Kobe sometimes, he can be the man and get everybody involved and sometimes it can go the other way. I have to say on a night in and night out basis, Lebron always tries to make his teammates better.
(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Lynx)
See more of David Zingler's interviews with Lynx players:
May 19: Renee Montgomery
Posted at 3:36 PM on June 5, 2009
by Chris Dall
Most of the focus after yesterday's 11-3 victory over Cleveland, and rightly so, was on Jason Kubel's monster day. Two home runs and six RBI is a pretty good day at the park. There was also talk of Joe Mauer's three-hit day, and Scott Baker's solid outing. Lost in the shuffle, as it often seems, were Justin Morneau's three hits and three RBI. Just another day for Justin.
Morneau is now hitting .348 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI, statistics that put him among the American League the leaders in all three categories. He's third in the AL with a 1.083 OPS. If he remains at this pace, Morneau will end the year hitting well above .300 with 30+ home runs and 120+ RBI, and should be among the candidates, yet again, for MVP. If you take a look at his statistics over the past few seasons, you realize that he's quite simply one of the best hitters in the game right now not named Joe Mauer. He's also a fine defensive first baseman.
But for all his gaudy statistics, it seems sometimes as if Morneau is the forgotten man on this team, both from a local and a national perspective. You rarely hear Morneau mentioned nationally, unless he's stealing the thunder from other media darlings (see Jeter, Derek and the 2006 MVP, and Hamilton, Josh and the 2008 home run derby). Maybe it's that he's quiet and unassuming, and just does his job. Maybe it's the fact that on a team that has a lot of issues, he's one of the guys who can always be counted on. Maybe it's just that he lives in Joe Mauer's shadow. Whatever the case, my hunch is that he's perfectly fine with it.
I just hope that when his contract comes up, his agent doesn't try to convince him he needs to go elsewhere to get more recognition, and that Twins management realizes he's as important to this team as that other guy who plays catcher.