Posted at 8:19 PM on June 19, 2009
by David Zingler
Despite changing coaches four days before the season began, the Minnesota Lynx jumped out to a 4-2 start and looked like legitimate playoff contenders. During the 2nd quarter of Wednesday's blowout loss in Phoenix however, star forward Seimone Augustus left the game with a knee injury. Today, the team's worst fears were realized when an MRI revealed Augustus had torn her ACL and would miss the remainder of the season.
Candice Wiggins and head coach Jennifer Gillom spoke about the ramifications of the injury and their outlook moving forward today as the team prepared for tonight's game in Seattle.
On the team's reaction to the injury:
Our initial reaction was that we were all devastated; Obviously for Seimone and especially for the players who had the opportunity to play a full season with her last year. We know how great a player she is. Even more than that - Seimone is such a wonderful person and someone that us younger players look up to. It's really hard. I think that we all had to take a night to think about things and tell ourselves that she's going to come back, it's not over... She was having such a great season. She had such high expectations for herself and the team. It's devastating, but you have to realize that things happen in life. You have to move on from them in a positive way. We're working on that right now and we have a great opportunity and a great test tonight; but, yeah, I was devastated.
On her new role:
I think everyone's role changes, mine especially. I understand that. The start of our season has been about us doing well, especially Seimone having a remarkable start to the season. We kind of caught ourselves watching Seimone - that's how great she was doing. It's not going to happen anymore. Things have changed and I'm ready to take on that role. Being a leader is something that comes natural to me. I know how much I need my teammates. Seimone needed support from us and I will need the same. I just wanna go out there. Tonight is a huge test for our team, and a test for me personally, but I'm confident that we will do great.
On her initial reaction to the injury:
I always have hope in those situations. I always try to be optimistic. Seimone didn't have a history with injuries. She's a tough girl. You have hope and you want so see great things, but it's hard in that situation. You have to move forward and can't be in denial. Of course I was (optimistic). I think everyone was optimistic.
On the team's morale:
The biggest thing is that life goes on. We all know more than anyone - the media, fans - how much we'll miss Seimone. At the same time, we have to move forward. It will be a challenge and we'll face a lot of adversity, but I think it's going to make our team stronger. Your mentality changes when something like this happens. That's the mindset of our team right now. We're sad for Seimone, but we know that she's going to come back from this. This isn't going to stop her from being great.
On Seimone's address to the team:
Seimone sent everyone a nice, long text message yesterday. The reality of playing a sport is injury. Losing someone like Seimone is extra difficult. She did send us a message and she called me this morning when we were on our way to shoot-around and had some really, really great things to say. The bond I have with Seimone is really strong. I really look up to her. She told me that I'm number one now. It was a really good message that she sent.
On her initial reaction to the injury:
I definitely feared the worst. With the way she planted and the fact that she was going to the basket really strong... and the weight pushed against her. We knew it wasn't good. I had a girl in high school go down with an injury similar to this. I just saw her knee just buckle... I put by head down. It did not look good. She grabbed it and screamed... I knew it wasn't good.
On the loss of Seimone:
I really think that Seimone really made this a great team. I think everyone learned a lot from her. This team is very talented, and they accepted their roles knowing that Seimone was our go-to player and Candice was our second. This team knows how to step up. I think you're going to be surprised by some of the players that are going to step up and contribute to this team. The players coming off the bench: Roneeka Hodges and Rashanda McCants... who I think can step up and take this role. I don't think one of them is going to be able to do it, but it's going to take a team effort. Seimone is very hard to replace. It's going to take several players to step up, not just one.
On the eventful start to her head coaching career:
I'm sill trying to process this all. It's amazing what my life has been like these past few weeks. On a high-high-high and then in one night, it's completely low. It's just like 'wow, you wonder what the lesson is in all this.' I try not think about it. The only thing I can do is accept this challenge. You go in and you know that there's a silver lining somewhere and that's what I'm looking for. I'm not going to be negative. I'm going to be positive and continue to motivate and bring out the best in this team. We're hoping something good can happen from this.
On who she thinks will fill the emotional role left by Seimone:
I think that's going to have to come from Candice. We saw a lot of that last year when she came off the bench and brought that energy to the team... really getting the team going. She's just a natural leader. I think she took a step back this year because she wanted Seimnone to have this year for herself. She wanted her to become the team leader and be that player that really gets the team going. I think she's taken a step back. I really feel that she's going to step in and flourish under that role. Don't get me wrong - Seimone is going to be very hard to replace. From every standpoint, both on and off the court for these players... I really think Candice will come in and do a great job and lead this team.
On her communication with Augustus:
We talked a bit yesterday. I tried to get her mind away from the injury and try and make her laugh. She was very emotional - she could hardly talk to me. I didn't want to talk to her that long and I just wanted her to focus on getting through yesterday. I haven't talked to her today, but I will. She was devastated yesterday and emotional. I didn't want to prolong it and I'll talk to her when she's able to talk to me.
(Photos courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx)